Thursday, January 5, 2012

Why Nonsense is Necessary

When you are at a loss for (or have forgotten altogether) what makes you happy, the common sentiment is to dig deep into the recesses of your mind to remember what brought you great joy as a child.  Chances are what made you happy then will still make you happy now.

Did you enjoy playing with trains?  You probably still do although you may not want to admit it.  Did you enjoy fishing, playing football, surfing, reading, sewing, acting, singing?  Any number of things we did as kids we did with wild abandon.  No societal rules telling us what is "right" or "wrong."  We just played and enjoyed our extracurricular activities. 

When I was a kid I loved to read poems.  Especially nonsense poems by Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear or Shel Silverstein.  My grandmother gave me a book called The Illustrated Treasury of Poetry for Children when I was 7-years-old.  I still have it and my favorite poems are still marked with paperclips from thirty some-odd years ago.

I took my old poetry book off the shelf not too long ago and started reading the poems with Nicholas.  He was having fun with the Limericks and I felt like a kid again.  A really happy kid.

Have you ever read Jabberwocky?  How could you read that poem and not have all sorts of fantastical dreams about the frumious bandersnatch?  It doesn't matter if you have not one clue about what a frumious bandersnatch is.  The words of that poem will take you on one heck of a wild ride.  Let your imagination soar. 

I still get lost in Shel Silverstein's words and wonder, where does the sidewalk end?  What do these kids know that I don't know?

When the boys were very young they received copies of almost all of Shel Silverstein's books.  The Giving Tree is an obvious favorite, but Nicholas and I especially like Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Light in the Attic.  We have fun reading the silliness and laughing together.  The best part is that for a few moments at the end of the day we can forget about our responsibilities and get lost in the make-believe worlds of some pretty incredible characters.

This is why nonsense is necessary.  In our structured, rigid, "right" or "wrong" world, we need a little nonsense to break up the seriousness of it all.  These authors made their life's work about nonsense.  Maybe we all need to find a little more nonsense in our own lives.

When Christopher was about 3-years-old we read The Owl and the Pussycat 3,645 times.  I kid, of course, but it was probably something close to that.  I even have a video of him singing the verse.  Hands down, my favorite video of all time.  But, back to the the story, how many times have you known an owl and a pussycat to fall in love?  Genius!

The boys received the book, His Shoes Were Far Too Tight: Poems by Edward Lear, for Christmas.  It's a wonderful compilation of Lear's most beloved poems of pure, unequivocal nonsense.  The book just came out in March of last year and as soon as I saw it I knew we must have it.  I think I was more excited about the book than they were.

Nicholas and I read the poems in the new book and laughed, as we do, at the silliness of it all.  We read The Jumblies and wondered together why their heads were green and their hands were blue?  No matter, they went to sea in a sieve and lived to tell about it!

We've reread that poem several times and Nicholas even did his book report on the new book of Edward Lear poems writing about and drawing The Jumblies.  He gave it 5 out of 5 stars!

What they say is true.  If you dig deep enough you will find what brought you great joy as a kid.  And, if you recognize and welcome the same joy as an adult, happiness is sure to follow.  I plan to add a little more nonsense to my life. 

When Nicholas asked to read Jabberwocky again the other night I opened my trusted poetry book to the  paper-clipped Jabberwocky page.  I wondered what other poems I had paper-clipped so Nicholas and I perused my poetry book to see what I had listed as my favorites when I was his age.

I should have known what I would find.  I should have remembered why I was so eager to get my hands on the new Edward Lear book.

There in all my old poetry book's dog-eared, paper-clipped glory was Edward Lear's The Jumblies. 

Nicholas and I laughed some more. Like mother like son.


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