What makes us human? We know that a few other species share with us some of our most valued experiences, such as our ability to perceive and respond to the emotional states of others. Today’s technologies remind us of our remarkable ability to deduce even some of the most subtle relationships in our environment, yet much of what we experience is still mysterious to us.
We love to construct grand theories of how things work. Questions, from “What's the meaning of life?” to “Does she love me?” occupy our thoughts whenever we lift our heads from the daily grind of survival. It’s often when something changes that we notice the ground that we’ve been walking on. Our personal narratives--the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves--become disjointed without our being aware of it until an event, or another person, comes along to remind us that we could have done things differently.
Judy Collins, a popular singer from a half-century ago, touched on these questions with two songs about how our perceptions of our personal realities change with time and circumstances.
Both Sides Now
I've looked at clouds (love, life) from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all
Send in the Clowns
Isn't it bliss?
Don't you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can't move.
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.
“Send in the clowns” refers to the old theatrical device that was used when the script failed—when, as it so often happens in life, we are left to figure out something different. I invite you to check out the full lyrics of both songs, which even after all these years can stimulate a lot of personal rumination. Better yet, listen to them sung. I’m sure they are available on YouTube.
In different ways, the two stories in this book have to do with that mystery. The book is available from Amazon.com, in either paperback or e-book format.