Alice Springs: Life and Musings

I offered to do a workshop for the people who have allowed me to stay at their campground. They have a big campfire and they invite people to come and share stories. For the last 4 days I’ve not been well, yesterday spent the day in bed, too exhausted to get up. That night I knew this guy Chris, a clown doctor, was coming to the campfire. He was the one that connected me with David and Sue. I am eternally grateful to him for doing that as I so needed a place to rest.

We sat around the campfire and David made damper. It was really nice with butter and honey. I sat with Margaret an indigenous lady who told me she grew up in this country. She had memories of cooking kangaroo on the campfire every night. She came from the traditional culture. She said she liked kangaroo and witchetee grubs. She was a gently spoken woman but I noticed her to be very aware. According to David she was a teacher and I would assume a Christian, as this is a Christian gathering. It was really nice to be with her and I would have loved to ask her more, but I did find her hard to understand. I enjoyed her presence.

I brought my clown gear and told the folks of my work and my trip. I tried to convey the beauty of clowning and the love that is extended. Particularly I like to share how beautiful people are and the importance of play. I am sure Chris was right on it. I showed some of my props.

There was a nice couple there who were singers and everyone joined in a song. I loved the community spirit they demonstrated. Margaret was right at home there and very much accepting of white ways. David and I had spoken briefly about the government earlier in the day. He made the point of how the aboriginal people had been treated, certainly I’ve picked up that they have been moved out of their traditional lands and this causes conflict with other tribal groups. I don’t know much of their situation but slowly I am getting some of an idea.

I learned about some of the sights nearby some require 4 wheel drive access, others are on sealed roads. There are many amazing places and I am contemplating going to Kings Canyon which is on the way to Uluru.

I had an interesting experience whilst we were talking around the fire. I actually saw the face of Jesus. Now I know that sounds imagined, I am not even a Christian. However, the face was clear to me and in my heart there was no doubt. I saw a man with a hat (not crown of thorns) and he had long hair, his features were distinct. The others came around me and and some could see him. I could see no other images in this fire, just that one man’s face. I really felt it as a sign. Later on as the fire changed, the face changed and I saw him smiling and looking in the direction of one of the women. I didn’t tell her, I should have as she is a Christian. I wondered if she had been suffering. It was so clear to me. The first time I’ve ever seen Jesus or whom I call Jeshua. Believe it or not! Later on I thought I should have taken a photo. Oh well.

Later on Chris and I chatted in the kitchen about life and how he was trying to find his way. He had been up and down, perfectly fine for a clown. We can’t be up all the time. He spoke of his work and his concerns at the violence. We had a talk about the violence issues here in Alice Springs and connecting possibilities to clowning. I think clowning could be great to build up connection, positivity and service. Later on I thought more and I felt circus was the way to go. I have a book ‘Circus in a Suitcase’. That night as I was reflecting on Chris’s work as a mental health professional and clown, I felt he could do great things creating a circus.

I went to bed and woke up early, thankfully I slept in again and that helped my cold. I have to try and build up my immune system and give myself much rest. I took my time and tidied up the cabin.

Chris rang and invited me to lunch. So he came around and I said my goodbyes to David and Sue. They told me they had been given a house and a grand piano. Isn’t life generous. I thought there is hope for me, maybe I get a house. I so appreciate my own space, moving makes me feel deeper gratitude.

He and I went to a Chinese vegetarian restaurant. We talked about the functions of the brain and the idea that when people are in fight or flight the brain does not access the meaning centre. We discussed the aspects of clowning and how it can develop that feeling part of the brain. I felt circus would be good with indigenous as they could develop cooperation skills, balancing, juggling, theatre etc. They are naturally great atheletes and I am sure would resonate with creative activites. The circus could be made into a conflict resolution circus which is an idea I’ve had for a while. Turns out that Chris was a peace clown. He was in the peace movement within the anti-nuclear area, which I was pleased to learn. Like me he was not into the aggression of the peace movement but raising awareness. He said years ago when he started out (1980′s) he was invited to come to a gathering of adults and children. He was given 20 minutes to speak of his work and clown. He decided to put it together as time was short. He told me he got the kids to imagine a nuclear winter. He had them put paper bags on their heads. The adults joined in. He had them imagine what it would be like to have no sun during the day. Then he had them imagine what they could do to prevent nuclear winter happening. He said he then slipped out and they were left thinking about what they could do. It was very powerful. He was intercepted in the carpark and taken back and he stood quietly unseen in the next room. He said the conversation went on for 1 hour they were so touched by the activity. It opened a window. In that moment I saw him as a peace clown. I really liked the idea to have people alone with their thoughts as people seek distraction to avoid what they find confronting. What was interesting is that he put meditation music on loud so there were no distractions. So maybe with indigenous kids he can inspire deeper thought and awareness through the clown.

He had been a clown since the 1980’s, I was very impressed. He had also been involved in theatre and circus. So I am sure he has many more skills than me. He had community development knowledge and a deep empathy for people. I really loved to hear this. A really good person. So refreshing to meet him and I cannot express my delight to meet fellow clowns as it is a special realm, that you can only know when you clown. I see it as a sacred space as it is about love. Always a joy and priviledge.

I am now at Nicki’s place, another clown doctor, and it is nice to sit on a couch. Funny the small things that make a difference. She is a gorgeous, peaceful Buddhist lady and kindly has allowed me to stay at her place for a few days. We will talk more about clowning.

She did mention to me when she clowned at the hospital there were many prisoners at the hospital with guards, they are quite hard to make laugh. I find them the most tempting. I can be naughty, bit like the Queens Guards at Buckingham Palace where you want to tickle them or make them smile. She also said that there were many women with domestic violence issues. I understand that the men may see women as chattels so there is much learning ahead to value women. Moreover, women are also challenged to find a way to empower themselves. I have felt saddened by the violence issues and wondered about the alcohol, the frustrations, inter-personal relations, inter-cultural relations and how to deal with complex emotions and changing traditions. Moreover, my friend mentioned the issue of internalized racism, where the violence is turned towards the people they know rather than white people and possibly the social frustrations of adapting to a european style culture. Typically white people are not harmed, that may be because of the laws, I am not sure, or maybe the numbers. There are many indigenous who go to jails as they are embroiled in violence. We had many years ago, here in Australia, The Deaths in Custody Inquiry/Commission where many young aboriginal men were taking their lives, some felt the police may have done it or driven them to it. I think there are two worlds here. For me I felt a different consciousness and I wondered how they cope with this type of society with houses, cars, jobs and money. Whereas their culture was around a campfire, hunting, traditions, customs, rituals, dreamings – another universe really. I wonder how they reconcile within themselves these two lives and how they integrate these lives. Reconciliation really is about anglo/european people reconciling difference and allowing others to be who they are. Do we really have to integrate them into our world? For the the indigenous perhaps reconciliation is about internal change and identity. Finding peace in a changing world, finding the centre of their own truth. So maybe reconciliation means different things for different people. I think there must be deep confusion and a sense of not knowing where you stand or the order of life and what is true or meaningful for a happy life. I feel empathy for any person suffering, I see no colours. I do believe we have to feel moved to assist rather than obligation or driven by some sense of guilt. I do think the people themselves have their own answers, maybe as friends we come along side, or shares skills such as clowning to bring happiness. I don’t believe people should be like me, it is more about them finding what makes them happy.

Happiness is the universal goal of all of us, yet it only comes when we know ourselves. Sometimes we identify with culture, I am seeing an identification as a universal person part of a universal family on the one planet. I see the values of humanity as the real stuff that connects us. When we be and do what we really want, then happiness just bubbles up. That has been my experience.

Mohandas Gandhi

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”