Thursday, April 14, 2005

Be the Fool

I once saw Debra Winger wearing a button that said, "I want it all." And then of course there is that old saying, "variety is the spice of life."

Most of us settle for a lot less variety than others - FEW of us really want it all. In fact, we feel overwhelmed, in some ways, with as much as we already have - since it seems what we have is not really part of the "all" we imagine we want. And then we settle for being spectators rather than players; apparently, our senses of guilt and the need to work in servitude are stronger than our more childlike and "young at heart" urges to enjoy and to play. We give up or miss out on simple pleasures to grind away in more complicated and painful plans. Maybe it's our confused egos or our grown up distrusts of joy and enjoyment.

And we Americans seem especially inept at pursuing real pleasure - we belittle it or marginalize it, treating pleasure as if it were some sort of fetish with a tinge of the dark side. Thus, we are famous for turning play and games into sports and grueling competitions, just as we turn innocent and natural sensuality into prurient and even evil seXXX. Compared to many cultures, we Americans are workaholics who barely know what to do with two weeks vacation (so we cut it up into days and hours) - much less the month to six weeks of vacation other adults in other high-tech countries so protect and enjoy.

Why is it so many of us grown ups seem to fear the vast array of pleasures in this life? No wonder we're overly medicating. It's not that we're overly pontificating. Pleasure can be but doesn't have to be a thinking person's sport. It can be the poor players, as well, the one fretting and strutting from day to day. But it takes bravery to seize a day, much less life - carpe diem, carpe vita. Who taught us to fear life and "appearances" so? Who said we ought to envy being proper more than we beg for passion?

Most of us let several things get in the way of living a life defined by ambition, newness, and variety - fears large and small, the urge to conform or be conventional (which comes from a lack of original thought or neuroses or BOTH), the desire to appear responsible, the urge to be consistent.

We might imagine lots of things but don't really pursue manifesting what we imagine. We leave our fantasies on the cutting room floor, so much so that our finished movies are often so much more mundane than they otherwise might have been.

We worry about seeming foolish or contradictory. Why take ourselves so seriously unless we really have something serious to do? And even then, self-deprecating humor seems a most precious salve. Clowns win hearts and minds. And contradictions reveal complexity and actually seem very real. If we consider or edit ourselves too carefully, what do we seem? Overly careful, cautious, afraid.

Why not, instead, go for it?! Let our minds wander and wonder and jump into the deep end AND the shallow end? Taste the fresh water and the brine. Don't set out to slay all of your fears. Display your fears. Wanna "be real"? GET real!

Once, a dear old mentor of mine said that one of my gifts was that I wasn't tied down like other people - not tethered, not settled, much less "settled down." He said I was, in a word, "uninhibited." Of course, in many ways, I am inhibited. I do like to take serious things seriously and earnestly, and I love to make sense or at least try so doggedly to make my own feeble attempts at making some rather sturdy sense. But I also see the Peter Pan in me that wants PLAY to be nearly as big a part of life now as it was when I was ten or 25.

And let's not forget: play is one of the most basic of human pleasures. How do you take others making fun of you and laughing not just with you but also at you? That's the test of play. Can you take their curve balls and toss them back overhanded with a bounce shot from between your legs while crouched upside down?

Seem foolish today, and grin about it. Brave the heat and spontaniety of your sass and your opinions and your sense of the ridiculous and that loveliest of all wry treasures - irony. Gotta LOVE irony! Push irony. Give in to and revel in the inconsistencies of life and thus it's myriad petty messes and major disasters, its funny tears and sad laughter.

Think a lot more. Just don't think too much. Whatever that means.

Tease the blatant nuances. Tiptoe out onto a limb. Test the infinite limits. Turn your most serious patter into a strain of absurdity. Ah yes, be the Fool, the clever, the cantankerous, even the curmudgeonly Fool. But do it with some sass, some class, and a dash of classlessness, even if you think you're gonna look like you've fallen on your... donkey.

[This post is relevant to "A Better Nation" as this blog morphs and wanders, as it introduces less political and more personal matters - and as it heads into terrain where it will - YES - seemingly contradict itself. But that's OK. It is LIFE - and liveliness - we are trying to discover and convey, not, in most cases, a serious philosophy that has to hold a bucket of distilled water. Better to ride the rapids and drink the rain. Onward, dear readers!]


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