Journal Entry: Mon Nov 26, 2012, 10:04 PM
I have always found wonder in the weird and mysterious artworks that decorate the home of my Godmother and her husband, Henry. At age of about 9 or 10, I asked Henry why he had nailed a monkey skull to his dining room wall. He answered by joking that it was more politically, and legally, correct than using a human one and then explained the meaning of the creation which included a gold sphere and dark lettering above the dry cranium of the primate.
At first, all I could think about was the masochistic violation of this creature's cadaver but later on, and especially at this time of my life, I realise that it is not the skull that gives the artwork its value but the meaning of the words above it: "If you are not busy living, you are busy dying".
School every Saturday (whether it be an art workshop, a sports fixture or something as nerve-wracking as the speech I am doing right now). With the added pressures that Matric (the final year of school) brings along with a sly smile on its mouth containing sharp teeth that chew up work and spit back marks that we feel are never good enough, I find myself "busy dying".
But I know I'm not the only one.
The "current state of the global economy", is phrase I hear so much that I have honestly given up on listening. Once the news is switched on or the voice of my father begins grumbling as he crinkles THAT paper which gets opened every Sunday to ruin his weekend. I also get annoyed when the topic is brought up at family gatherings or dinner parties that my parents have done their best to turn into happy occasions. I find it so ironic. The food will be delicious, the house all spotless and homely with my sister and I all proud of the decorations we have contributed to the occasion and then, "oh Greece, poor Samaras, oh the yobbos living off the doll, oh Mugabe, inflation, petrol, tax, insurance, income, retrenchment, education, service delivery…"
I fail to understand the sweet goodbyes that are exchanged at the end of the gathering on "what a delightful" occasion it was and how everyone anticipates repeating it.
"Don't worry, be happy", is a cliché that might be worthy of an eye-roll or grimace but, it is one that I don't mind hearing or reading "till death do us part". Neither is the phrase, "laughter is the best medicine". Although I've never heard of a doctor prescribing or police confiscating it, laughter is a drug that I would LOVE to become addicted to. In a scene from the 1964 masterpiece called Mary Poppins, the characters are told jokes from the humorous Uncle Albert who seems to be suspended in mid air along with his tea set. Poppins finds herself too sophisticated to enjoy these jokes and disapproves as the children of her employer laugh so hard that they levitate magically towards the comedian.
Although the kids are floating in a heavenly direction, I feel that the psychological suggestion in this scene can helpfully define Henry's artworks allusions to what "living" is all about.
Not taking ourselves too seriously, seeing the best in one another, understanding parody, satire, puns and even the non-sequitor when it is intended in a witty one-liner. The role of the Court Jester is a great example of this lifestyle. Jesters became familiar in Medieval Societies and evolved through the centuries to have a variety of roles. Initially, aristocratic households would own them for pure entertainment but others were employed formally by court houses as "licensed fools" to provide both comic relief and advice for the serious members of parliament. "Wise enough to play the fool" seems like a strange oxymoron to capture the essence of the jester, but Shakespeare's words echo the need for people who are both funny enough to entertain and wise enough to (and I quote) "counsel a stubborn king, and as such the myth of the court jester suggests that jesters could act as a check on the whimsical power of absolute monarchy".
The "licensed fools" that I am familiar with reside in DVD boxes, magazines and the World Wide Web. Our own Deep Fried Man and Trevor Noah along with global faces like Jimmy Carr, Eddie Izzard and Whoopi Goldberg all provide good exercise for tummy muscles in the safety of home. I think that exposure to the kings and queens is crucial as well as spending time with friends and family who can cheer us up when we find ourselves dragging our corpses through mundane dreary days in life. So, in light of that, I leave you with the words of Uncle Albert from Mary Poppins: "The more I laugh (ha-ha-ha-ha) The more I'm filled with glee. The more I'm glee (he-he-he-he) The more I'm a merrier me!"