In one of Eugene Ionesco’s most brilliant plays, everyone starts turning into rhinoceroses. In one of Franz Kafka’s most famous novellas, a man wakes up one morning to find he has turned into a giant insect overnight.
What silly ideas!
What classic works of art!
Sometimes, you just have to let go and be silly. “Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do,” said Christopher Morley in the final message he had printed with his obituary.
Among our most beloved treasures are the story of a girl who fell down a rabbit hole and had a series of ridiculous adventures, the story of a girl whose house is blown away in a tornado to a land where scarecrows, tin men and lions talk, and more recently the story of a boy who finds a lost alien wandering through the cornfield next to his house and they become fast friends.
Reach for the silly, fold yourself into the absurd, and find delight and perhaps even profundity.
Sometimes I uncork the silly juice and write, say, a story about the moose, the gnome and the cow on my desk having adventures. I wrote another short story about a fish sounding the alarm to his friends about the pelicans who have invited them to dinner. These are lame little exercises, perhaps, but they tilt the mind in a different direction, shake things up and look at life from a different point of view.
Sometimes you need to dance to the disco-like music in a bad TV commercial, sit down on the floor to play with the dog, argue with the cat, or try to imagine the most absurd scenario you can imagine. Unleash your mind and see where it goes.
My very first effort, The Imaginary Bomb, began with the phrase, “The power of the imagination is unlimited.” I had the silly thought that someone developed a way to tap that unlimited power as an energy source. Next thing I knew, I had written a novella.
Sometimes you have to go where chocolate hangs in strips from trees, where dog chew toys are used to lure wild cowabungas on hunting safaris, where Who is the first baseman and I Don’t Know plays third, where “Delores” is the punchline of a half-hour comedy — in short, you have to dive into the silly and see what nuggets you can extract.
I mean, come on: A guy gets caught in a gamma bomb explosion, and instead of being vaporized, he transforms into a huge green man whenever he gets angry? A greedy old man turns into the most generous philanthropist in town after three ghosts visit him one day after midnight? A farm boy, a princess and a cargo freighter pilot get together and manage to bring down a galactic empire? Listen to yourself. How silly are those ideas?!?!
Writers and artists (Don’t get me started on those melting clocks!) need to have a little play therapy, to engage the silly gene and see where it takes us. It might just end up as the adventures of Moose, Gnome and Cow, but it just might lead you to the Incredible Hulk or Ebeneezer Scrooge.
Be silly sometimes!