Who’ll Be the Last Clown to Bring the House Down?

I am a big fan of the 70’s rock band Supertramp particularly the album named Crime of the Century. It has often been suggested that our apparent world is a stage and we are all actors playing our many and varied roles. The comparison seems to work well and describes our many personas (masks). Sociologist Erving Goffman noted in his 1959 book “The presentation of self in everyday life” that we even have a backstage presence where we are more relaxed and authentic and where we prepare for our more formal roles in the public eye. I can see the fly on the wall shows depicting this backstage environment on the television that obviously are waiting for those moments when the stars forget that there are cameras everywhere. I somehow doubt the authenticity of those shows. We are just paying for bad actors pretending to be authentic at home. And who in their right mind would allow the world into their private space to gawp and comment as they please?

The lyrics I have quoted here use the same analogy to lament the mess the actors are making of their roles in our world in general and how those dangers may be more damaging than we as yet realise. Using the curtain falling as the end to this show we call life as we know it.


The actors and jesters are here
The stage is in darkness and clear
For raising the curtain
And no-ones quite certain whose play it is
How long ago, how long
If only we had listened in.
If we’d known just how right we were going to be.
For we dreamed a lot
And we schemed a lot
And we tried to sing of love before the stage fell apart.

If everyone was listening you know
There’d be a chance that we could save the show
Who’ll be the last clown
To bring the house down? 
Oh no, please no, don’t let the curtain fall

Well, what is your costume today? 
Who are the props in your play? 
You’re acting a part which you thought from the start
Was an honest one.
Well, how do you plead? 
An actor indeed!
Go re-learn your lines,
you don’t know what you’ve done
The finales begun.

If everyone was listening you know
There’d be a chance that we could save the show,
Who’ll be the last clown
To bring the house down? 
Oh no, please no, don’t let the curtain fall.

Songwriters: Richard Davies / Roger Hodgson – If Everyone Was Listening lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Pink Floyd with some help from Stephen Hawking suggested that we just need to keep talking but maybe that is the problem in a nutshell – too much talking when the solution must be listening, compromise, cooperation and kindness. Writer Colin Wilson theorised that our selves were evolved like climbing a ladder and as we live and learn we rise up to another level of humanity. I somewhat agree with this but feel most of humanity must be scared of heights and remain frozen at the bottom as victims of their own fears and cultural conditioning – Like a herd of cattle heading off for slaughter not an individual in view. Wilson also had faith that our subconscious humanity would see us through our impending doom. We would act right when the time was right. It could be argued that we are leaving it a bit late. I hope he is right but think we need more self-awareness and wisdom and our economic systems keep us distracted, stopping us from ever acting for any values not linked to profit, power and status.

So, who will be the last clown to bring the house down? I am sure we can all think of many politicians that fit the bill and could act as a scapegoat for our indifference. It is much easier to blame others rather than take on some responsibility for ourselves. It is far more likely that the mass indifference and the want for more stuff will bring the house down. With all of my heart, I hope I am wrong and somehow the values of honesty, kindness and global cooperation are elevated above those of power, profit and status which currently prevail throughout humanity.

We are human beings, not actors in fixed roles and we get to choose our roles and how to play each role. I have heard it said humans are a bridge between nature and spirit. I see it more as each day is an opportunity to climb the ladder of humanity moving away from our animal roots to new heights as yet unexplored for each of us. We are driven towards progress – This I understand – but our possibilities should be dreaded as much as desired. We are moving too fast and with too much complexity. Man has a blind spot, thinking that technological progress automatically enhances humanity. It doesn’t! In so many ways – but that is another subject for another day. It seems as if our world is like a runaway progress train. That may be impossible to stop or even slow down. It seems to be gaining speed and for all of our refinements, there are still smart apes at the helm. That much is obvious each day in the news.

The problem with our personal experiments that we call life and humanities much larger more complicated experiment is that we won’t get to do it over when we mess up.

We are still totally ignorant of what it even means to be human. With our divided brains, we are at times like two strangers in a body we know precious little about. Attempting complex tasks when we should be learning how to operate ourselves. The chaos is inevitable and the progress train keeps gathering speed. Perhaps already unstoppable and possibly time to sit and look out of the window and enjoy the wipe-out.

I have included some more Supertramp lyrics that harmonise with my train metaphor. Are you aware that our left brain cant understand a metaphor? It won’t get it. If this whole article confuses you it is because you are left brain dominant. It would be a good time to discover neuroscience and to learn how your brain may be working. You may know more about your techno gadgets than you do about the amazing kit you own just being human.


Rudy’s on a train to nowhere, halfway down the line
He don’t wanna get there, but he needs time
He ain’t sophisticated, nor well-educated
After all the hours he wasted, still he needs time.
He needs time – he needs time for livin’,
He needs time – for someone just to see him.
He ain’t had no lovin’
For no reason or rhyme
And the whole world’s above him.
Well it’s not as though he’s fat-
No there’s more to this than that-
See he tries to play it cool-
Wouldn’t be nobodys fool.

Rudy thought that all good things comes to those that wait
But recently he could see that it may come too late.

All through your life, all through the years
Nobody loved, nobody cared.
So dim the light, dark are your fears
Try as I might, I can’t hold back the tears
How can you live without love, it’s not fair?
Someone said give but I just didn’t dare.
What good advice are you waiting to hear?
Hearing’s alright for them that’s all there
You’d better gain control now
You’d better show’em all now
You’d better make or break now
You’d better give and take now
You’ll have to push and shove now
You’ll have to find some love now
You’d better gain control now.
Now he’s just come out the movie.
Numb of all the pain,
Sad but in a while he’ll soon be
back on his train…

Songwriters: Richard Davies / Roger Hodgson
Adam x

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