Every culture and tradition around the world has masks, costumes, dances, puppets, and ceremonial characters that teach or bring meaning to the community. In most circumstances, these are not considered “performances” to be watched, they are considered “sacred” or “ceremonial” aspects of life that the whole community participates in the magic of creating. Carnival, Halloween, Feast of Fools, Day of The Dead, are a few modern festivals that are rooted in this ancient and tribal heritage.
Everyone knows what it is like to put on a mask or a costume and allow yourself to become someone or something different. The human psyche is complex and social conventions/restrictions often do not allow for the range of emotional expression and freedom that is necessary for a healthy life.
Universal archetypes abound, but the clown/trickster/fool seems to be the best qualified to transcend cultural boundaries. The reason for this is that culture maintains itself by enforcing traditional ways that often become rigid and closed systems. Culture clash and war often occurs because of ethnocentrism, when people can not see beyond their own culture. However, in order to keep traditions alive (and probably to keep our species alive), sometimes traditions have to be broken, and the clown/trickster/fool is the universally accepted tradition breaker. Since breaking traditions is a sensitive issue, these characters need to be accompanied by laughter, merry-making, and much beauty and color. Often the laughter is created by some foolish and humbling quirk that makes the character love-able and almost human. Whether it is slipping on a banana peel, or being covered with mud, these characters have the ability to turn sorrow to joy, and anger to laughter.
As our world gets smaller, as people begin to awaken to the fact that there are many cultures and many ways to see the world and experience life, we are all humbled to recognize that each is valid. In many ways, we are all fools to have thought our way was the only way, or the best way. True wisdom comes from accepting that each culture has something universal and valuable to teach us all about who we are. Everyone throughout the world knows what it feels like to be sad, angry, lonely, to laugh, to celebrate life, and to make merry in spite of life’s struggles.
It is often said that when we can laugh at something we can conquer it. In the face of so many troubles in the world, what will it take to find the place within ourselves that can laugh at it all and celebrate life in the face of so much uncertainty? It might just be time to dawn a mask and a costume and let go of all inhibitions like a child. Maybe laughter will be the medicine we need to get us into a good place where we can visualize a positive future for our troubled world. It couldn’t hurt to try!

*This article originally written for Giggle Bubble Dreams and has been adapted for Culture Collective*

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I founded Culture Collective and this blog to give voice to the people and projects who are making a positive change in this world. Explore the blog, make posts and I'll do my best to respond. Every person counts, inspiration is contagious, share it!

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