As I lie in my sweat-soaked sheets ill from the nastiest flu I’ve ever experienced, I contemplate what I have learned. (Illness can serve a purpose if you are open to it.) Of course, the first three days were a blur of coughing and fever, but on the fourth day still too ill to do anything purposeful (key word here), I swung my lap top desk over my much-blanketed bed and started catching up on cultural phenomena that I had been too busy to bother with previously:
Gangnam Style. If you’re like me, you have no idea what that is—maybe you’ve read or heard some reference to it, but haven’t actually seen it. I first became aware of it when I saw someone wearing a tee shirt with Gangnam Style printed on it in large letters.
So, lying in bed sipping wellness tea, I looked it up on YouTube. Being older and constantly slipping behind technologically and culturally, mine was the 1,141,096,846th hit. No kidding, over a billion hits on YouTube. Holy cannoli, I thought, that’s 1/7th of the world’s population! Then I realized it only means “hits.” There are probably 10,000 teenagers somewhere who have watched it obsessively and pushed it up to over a billion hits. Nevertheless, Gangnam Style is a cultural phenomenon.
The first thing I noticed about this music video was the cheery upbeat sound. Then I realized it is not in English (except for an occasional “sexy lady” thrown in) and is sung by a kind of Asian Jim Belushi in sunglasses who doesn’t smile and dances one of the silliest dances in music video history—like a child’s imitation of riding a horse. Surprisingly, I found myself smiling, then laughing. I liked it. A lot. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0
Downton Abbey. Having no TV (for over 30 years now…haven’t missed it), I was nevertheless able to watch this phenomenon through the grace of the Masterpiece website only hours after everyone else had seen it. My internet connection is old lady slow, therefore the episode constantly started and stopped giving me the added pleasure of being able to take in all the details of costume and set during the endless and frequent pauses as well as giving me time to make cups of tea, take little naps, and spend the entire morning in a Proustian-like dream of time moving slowly and gently through this great fantasy life while lengthening my sentences.
Laughing at Maggie Smith sent me into terrible coughing fits, but I didn’t care. I was grateful. I, like so many, am a devotee of Maggie’s (that’s what we devotees call her).
I lay back…well, not all the way…propped up on pillows…and asked myself what made Maggie Smith so brilliant and appealing. Yes, her comic timing is impeccable, but what does it for me is her sense of the absurd—her understanding and love of silliness. In one scene, they are all playing charades. The evil newspaperman remarks scornfully at how silly people make themselves in the process. Maggie Smith smiles that smile of hers and says, “Let’s see what you look like when it’s your turn.”
Gangnam Style, too, is really silly. It’s not dark or serious, but delightfully silly. You don’t need to know Korean to get it. Psy, the singer/songwriter/creator, in his own way is willing to be the fool as he makes fun of people who take the wrong things to be important.
Pomposity and silliness cannot exist in the same space. Rigidity, negativity, and judgment are exposed in the face of silliness (though they don’t like it). Sadly, we tend to lose our sense of silliness as we grow older and more responsible and take on weightier issues of rearing children and solving the problems of the world. We lose our ability to laugh and make others laugh with us as we did when we were young. But, anyone wise in how creativity happens emphasizes playfulness, unstructured time, humor, and…silliness.
When we forget how important humor and silliness are. we grow old, dull, and lack creativity. I’m grateful to Maggie and Psy for reminding me of the great necessity of silliness. No wonder kings employed jesters. I say bring jesters into the White House! Make it a cabinet position! The Secretary of Silliness. Were we as expert in it as Maggie Smith, silliness could be the effective antidote to nearly everything wrong in the world. Silliness is a Cure All.
Okay, maybe I am feverish. Maybe I am overestimating it, but I think a Random Act of Silliness campaign is just what we need now. So, here I go. Flu-ridden I’m putting on my slippers made like little black and white cows complete with red ribbons and a little bell around their necks. They jingle as I walk to the kitchen for another cuppa tea. Their little heads on the top of my toes bump into one another as I lay back in bed.
I smile. I feel better already.