If thou wert my fool, nuncle, I'ld have thee beaten for
being old before thy time.
LEAR: How's that?
LEAR: Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been
King Lear, Act 1, Scene 5
The Importance of Being Silly
Every time we see an ad
touting a product designed
to raise the libido, increase potency, and stimulate eros,
the conviction gets ever more imprinted on the eldering
population that the only fun you can have is in the bedroom.
When you get older, however, more subtle and more deeply
joyful possibilities arise..
Mardi Gras and Purim are approaching — seasons of rejuvenation. It seems to me that
there are a number of ways in which elders can create
possibilities for fun for themselves that not only will
delight, but will refresh, stimulate, and heal the cells of
the body. Norman Cousins healed from his illness by watching
funny movies. You have surely heard the phrase, “Laughter is
the best medicine.”
This is the season in which
we can allow ourselves to be silly. My friend Bernie DeKoven is known as Dr. Fun. He is helping people find
delight in win-win games. In fact, we had a conversation the
other day. He is starting a play community. A play community!
For years we have talked about how to let
Silly out of the cage. Both “Serious” and “Silly” coexist
within us. Bernie thinks Serious has Silly imprisoned in
most of us.
These two forces operate in
our consciousness. Silly can’t take action because the force
of Serious — who likes to think of itself as the Great
Manager — overrules. Silliness gets bound up by the business-like
approach of Serious, whose first question is always, “What’s the use?”
I once said to my son, “That
was a stupid movie.” He replied, “No Daddy, it wasn’t
stupid. It was silly, and I like silly movies.” That’s very,
very discerning. Silly doesn’t get out often enough— so
there’s this conspiracy not to let Silly out because Serious
says Silly is stupid.
We need to re-learn how to
play and let Silly out so that we can simply have fun.
Sometimes the child in us does play, but we feel guilty.
Sometimes the parent in us scolds us for gambling with or
wasting our time. Very seldom does the adult in us get to
play with high consciousness: High play facilitates the kind
of communication in which my heart can communicate an
emotion with your heart. Imagine that I put some music on and,
with all my eighty-plus years, I look in the mirror and
begin to dance. Objectively, I’m not a ballet dancer. But
subjectively... OY! Am I a ballet dancer! If can make a leap,
if I can make eight scissors on the way up! We don’t have a
chance to use Silly in this way often enough. Someone once
told me that people don’t stop playing because they get old:.
people get old because they stop playing.
Silly brings us lots of
vitamins! I once read of a research study in which they took
samples of T-cells (cells which indicate immune function and
general health) of elders before and after the experiment
and got folks to wear the clothes they wore in the 1950s.
The researchers then played the music of that era in a room
decorated from that time and had them dance to the tunes
they danced to in the 1950s. They then took T-cell samples
again and showed an increase in T-cells after the merriment.
It seemed to the participants that the burdens of the
serious years had been lifted from their shoulders. They
experienced more vitality and energy.
My suggestion is that you
invite some friends over who would like to play silly with
you. Dress up in funny clothes, play games in which everyone
can win, and make time for fun and hilarity. Chances are
that you will like the experience and that you will want to
repeat it with your friends at least once a month. I suggest
full moon times as the best time to invite Silly as a Master
of the Revels. Now go have some fun with this!