Butterfly Dreams

“Yellow and Black Butterfly” | Anthony Satori

“Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Zhuangzi. Soon I awakened, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.”

– Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi)

The Enigmatic Phenomenon of Clowns

“The Enigmatic Phenomenon of Clowns” | Anthony Satori

Clowns are such oddly polarizing figures. Some people love them, with deep affection. Others dislike them, with equal intensity. Many people are even afraid of them. But almost everyone has a strong reaction to clowns, one way or another.

Clowns are something of a paradox, as well, in that they deliberately hide their identities beneath layers of paint and outlandish costumes, and yet they lay themselves bare before us by means of their exaggerated gestures, movements, and facial expressions. They throw themselves wholeheartedly into absurd and even dangerous situations in an earnest attempt to make us laugh, gasp, and feel something. We root for them, we fear for them, and we sigh in relief when they escape unscathed.

Every move a clown makes is an effort to capture and hold our attention – to gain our sympathy, to draw our empathy – to be seen and understood by us. And in a way, this makes them a true mirror of the human condition. Perhaps this is why audiences react to clowns in such an intense manner. Maybe their antics hit closer to home than we realize, as we watch these strange, cartoonish figures performing exaggerated and unapologetic presentations of the human need to be seen and appreciated and loved.

And when they cry, it manifests in such an over-wrought caricature of emotion that it can often make us feel uncomfortable. The dissonance of their tears is heightened even further by being juxtaposed with such lighthearted and colorful facades. These are the axiomatic “tears of a clown.” They are expressions of sadness coming from a face with a painted-on smile, and we feel these tears in a uniquely poignant way. Maybe we see something of ourselves in this, as well: the act of wearing a face that says, “everything is alright,” while inside we may be feeling sad, lost, or even depressed.

Upon reflection, it seems that clowns may be a more apt representation of humanity than we might have ever imagined.