Thinking about clowns, bad clowns, and bad bad clowns

bad-clownClown sightings are up. It started the last of August in South Carolina when a clown appeared to be attempting to lure kids into nearby woods.   Since then communities across the country have been disturbed by scary clowns, clown-related threats, hoaxes and actual credible events. Is this the normal marketing run-up to Halloween? It is possible, but it seems likely there is more.

Stephen King — whose 1986 novel “IT” depicted a supernatural being that takes the form of a clown — recently felt compelled to weigh in: “Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria–most of em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh.” You know it is serious when King feels the need to weigh in.

Clowns have cheered children in hospitals, delighted them at birthday parties, and come between angry bulls and fallen cowboys for generations. However, the annual Chapman University Survey of American Fears found that clowns were a cause of significant anxiety for 6.8 percent of Americans in 2015. Perhaps clowns are an expression of human anxiety, “specters of anxiety and discomfort, bogeymen that personify our deepest fears”.

What is a person to do? How can a parent or teacher reduce the anxiety in a young person? A small percentage needs professional help and counseling. The majority, however, would benefit greatly from the centuries old admonition to think less on scary clowns by choosing to focus on “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Lovely in this context embraces thoughts of great moral and spiritual beauty, not of evil. “Admirable” points to “things that speak well of the thinker—thoughts that recommend, give confidence in, and, if heard by others, should be admirable, not embarrassing.” Few single thoughts will create an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual Grand Canyon. Like drops of water gathered into a steady steam, however, thoughts lead to great destruction or remarkable beauty.

Clare Boothe Luce was once our ambassador to Italy. While she was living in a beautiful 17th-century Italian villa, she began to notice that she was always tired. She lost weight, and seemed to have less and less energy.

She sought medical care, and after a period of intense testing it was discovered that she was suffering from arsenic poisoning. Everyone on her staff was given a security check, but it was soon established that none of her staff was trying to poison her. Which left the question: Where was the poisoning coming from?

Finally, they found the cause: It was the ceiling of the bedroom. There were beautiful designs of roses, ornately done in plaster relief, and they were painted with an old paint that contained arsenic lead. A fine dust fell from the roses, and Mrs. Luce was slowly being poisoned in her bed by the dust from the ornate roses.

What kind of clown should we focus our thoughts about? Are your thoughts lovely and admirable or laced with deadly elements of fear, falsehood, and evil? Little things, over time, add up.

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