“I’m a tearless clown. If I were to get a tattoo, it would be the Two Masks, and they would both be smiling.”
– Andy Samberg
We are all clowns.
Not in the funny way. Not in the playful, whimsical, joyous way we all grew up believing clowns to be. And not in the murderous, kidnapping way we sometimes see on television and in movies (I’m looking at you, Mr. King).
No, I’m talking about the very nature of what is means to be a clown. I’m talking about the real human being that is hidden beneath while the character of the clown is presented to the world. Hidden by makeup. Hidden by an act. Hidden by a role that was designed to make everyone on the outside happy. To portray and project a sense of serenity.
Let me ask you something. Are you the same person at work that you are when you’re at home? What about family gatherings? Out with friends? At church? Are you playing a part, becoming a character? Do you hide what is “real” underneath a facade of your own making?
There’s no suspense here in you answering that question for yourself. We all know the answer is yes, and we don’t even pretend to that it’s not. I know I play a character. One that’s based on me, but is not exactly the me that I know inside.
The truth of the matter is that if we didn’t hide, if we didn’t adopt that facade, we’d expose ourselves for who we really are. The person we know inside. We’d expose the complications. The ugliness and the beauty. The ways and thoughts and feelings that make us tick.
Those things that make us laugh hysterically.
Those things that make us cry uncontrollably.
Those things that make us rage with fury.
Those things that make us unbelievably happy.
Those things that make us nervous.
These are the feelings and ways with which we cope with everyday life. And we only let them out to roam inside our own mind. We keep them bottled up to avoid hurting others, or pushing them away. We try to keep ourselves safe. To maintain the peace. We have whole conversations in our heads to make sure we can think through difficult scenarios. We attempt to prepare ourselves for those inevitable real-life discussions. Those conflicts you dread having with another person. Or just the opposite. Those joyous moments you want to make sure you’re ready for. So you can say just the right words or do just the right thing.
So why do we (collectively) do this?
I believe we have an inherent human desire to be “ok”. We want to be okay with ourselves and okay with the outside world. And we want the outside world to be okay with us. We need normalcy. An even keel. We crave it. Why do you think the most oft-asked question from one human being to another is “Are you ok?”
We are also scared. Scared if we ever let others see the real human being beneath that we’d scare them off. Scared that we’d anger them, or even worse that we’d hurt them. We are terrified that we are not, in fact, “ok”.
Thus, we hide what is beneath. We suit up as best we can to deal with that scary, unpredictable, complicated place known as the outside world. We put on our makeup.
As I said, we are all clowns.