What does that phrase mean to you? Think for a minute before you read on: it does mean something to you, doesn’t it?
When I first encountered the phrase, it didn’t. But within a few minutes it hit me: my best friend volunteered as a hospital clown! And now he’s dead!
It actually felt like a revelation, even though I was just reading a Wiki article about various techniques used by people performing “cold readings” in front of an audience. Imagine the effect it would have if I’d been part of an audience to a psychic performance: a group of people probably inclined to believe in the phenomenon of ESP, (or at least curious about it, else they wouldn’t be there). Is that him? Is he trying to get through to me?
In my case the phrase could be interpreted literally, but note that both”clown”and “graveyard” are nouns which can easily be metaphorical .A clown could be someone who is or was always amusing, or someone who repeatedly did or does foolish or laughable things . Who does not know someone like that? The graveyard can also mean the end or failure of a particular venture, social isolation, obloquy, or obsolescence.
Anither thing about the phrase is the inherent incongruity of the (very vivid) images the nouns invoke. Everyone will “see“ the ridiculous, brightly-clad figure of the clown, and also “see” in the mind’s eye the gloomy “Old churchyard” with its leaning, moss covered stones, and the occasional new grave. There’s something awful about the combination, something profane or at least inherently impossible. It’s like the utterances of the three witches in Macbeth: “When the battle’s lost—and won!” Or “…when Burnham Wood be come to Dunsinane..”
I’m at the polishing stage of an article on fortune telling, where I kinda read all around the issue (again, like I did before I started my draft) just to make sure I haven’t missed anything interesting, or gone off on the wrong track.
i was so struck by the jolt of pleasure, or satisfaction, or just…reinforcement, as they say in the laboratory, that I got from making this connection, and the insight it gave me into the mental mechanics of faith and conviction. It was like cracking a code; I’ve had similar experiences when the connection or common root of a word in a foreign language becomes clear in a flash. It’s like the instant when the second image in a trompe l’oeil drawing reveals itself. Not so much an “Ah HA!” moment, as an “Ahhhhh..” moment, a minor frisson of ecstasy.
And, the current flows both ways! The performer who has thrown out such a phrase sees the stirring in the audience, sees a number of them obviously affected, sometimes even jumping to their feet to share their epiphany. The “reader” is reinforced in belief in her own skills! This is known In the trade as the “transcendental temptation”.
Well, thanks for reading, O Ratty, if you’re still with me! Have a great day—and that “clown in the graveyard“ you keep picturing? just ignore him….