‘Silly’ is a somewhat disenfranchised word, isn’t it? Silly is not something to be aspired to, you’re not supposed to be silly… Yet looking back at the times of full-blown, side-splitting, carefree joy in my life, many of them revolve around a certain degree of silliness.
What about the time, for instance, when I was sitting across from my brother on a train? We were maybe 8 and 10 at the time. Thinking, for some reason, that he had a drawing pin (thumb tack) stuck in the sole of his shoe, he lifted his foot to me and asked me to pull the pin out. I pulled out an imaginary pin and, making the association with hand grenades, waited a few seconds before making the sound of one blowing up. (This was back in the days when you could make jokes about explosions in public places without causing mass panic or getting yourself arrested.) The poor man sitting near us who had been struggling to keep his composure throughout our joyous silliness up to that point finally lost it and had to laugh. (This is not a very British thing to do; Brits have to maintain at all times the impression that they believe themselves to be the only person on the train. Any acknowledgement of the existence of other passengers, let alone interaction with them, is strictly taboo.) I don’t know who was more embarrassed, him or mum.
When I was at university a group of us randomly decided to make a kite one day. A box kite, to be precise. We had no idea what we were doing, but the creative muse descended and we figured it out. It took so long that it was getting dark before it was ready. Undeterred, we decided to rig up lights to it (two of our number were electronics engineering students, so just happened to have things like LEDs, wire, battery packs and soldering irons easily to hand). That took even longer to get right, but eventually we had a working kite with lights at every corner. We took it up to the nearby hills, which all the day’s other kite flyers had long since vacated, and set it free. The first crash dislodged the (rather heavy) battery pack, which we never saw again, but after that it flew amazingly well, and was really none the worse for being unlit. We also got an amazing view of thunder storms on the horizon circling us, which we’d have missed had we forgone the lighting experiment.
Everyone needs a few memories like that, I think, moments when you weren’t thinking about your career path or paying the bills; times when what other people thought genuinely didn’t matter; seasons when the joy within bubbled over into exuberance and creative energy and you did something just because it was fun.
Yes, sometimes silliness can tip over into stupidity, when you start endangering yourself or thoughtlessly causing hurt or damage to others, but in its proper place, silliness is highly therapeutic.
So I skip with Judith through the streets of London, I giggle with Sarah over random, wild connections which strike us as funny, I sing silly songs with my brother whenever we’re together and I try not to quench the spurts of silliness in any children I have the privilege to interact with.
Do you have fond memories of joyful silliness? When did you last do something unashamedly silly? Is your inner silly lost forever, or can you find it in there somewhere, begging to be let out…?
This post forms part of the ‘Silly’ blog carnival on peterpollock.com