It's August, and I'm swimming against the tide. So what else is new?
Open Season on Silly
It is late summer. The 'silly season'. I guess that means writers are supposed to be silly.
I don't feel very silly, somehow.
Oh, I meant to be silly when I got up this morning. I've been working hard for the last six months, hardly had a day off. (Being self-employed, I have an unreasonable boss.) I was looking forward to finishing that last heavy project. I'd promised myself I'd stop and be lazy for a bit. I've been working hard on being lazy all week. I think I almost made it Thursday afternoon. For about five minutes. Then the carpet cleaners showed up, and I had to move furniture.
Another way of being silly is to be frivolous. I've tried that, too. I opened this document intending to tell you all about the crazy emails I've been getting. One had as a subject line, 'I want to be happy.' I thought this was profound for about a second – until I realised the email was from Natasha. Natasha, Olga, and Ludmilla keep writing me emails. They think I will help them get a green card. They keep reminding me how sexy 'hot Russian babes' can be. The very next email was offering to sell me something called 'Max Gentleman Enlargement'. I'm assuming this is so I can make all those hot Russian babes happy. I may be a spoilsport here, but I think I'll pass. (Elektra thinks I'll pass, too.)
The news agencies try to be silly in August. They pelt us with reports of bizarre accidents with happy endings (like the worker in New York City who drove the salt truck out of the third-storey window – he had to hang there for five minutes, a new car was destroyed by the debris, but nobody got hurt). They waffle on about funny things that happened in sports – weird baseball manoeuvres and odd feuds with umpires – and fun factoids like the world's largest shark (which doesn't eat people). Cool stuff. After all, it is a well-known fact that nothing exciting ever starts in August.
With the exception of World War I, of course.
Being silly in summer should come naturally to me. I come from a part of the world where life slowed to a crawl during the dog days. We of the Deep South never quite understand how anybody could get up the energy to do anything drastic during August, because there, the temperature is about 40° Celsius for weeks. Rapid and violent movement can be life-threatening. So we sit in the shade and drink cold liquids while complaining about the state of the world...languidly.
For that reason, I was utterly startled to find people in the UK rioting in August. Until I realised that a heat wave there is much cooler than a heat wave here. The problem is, they're hot enough to get mad, but not hot enough to sit down. And what happened was not silly at all. Meaningless, perhaps. Sad, certainly. But not silly. Nothing to laugh at here.
See what I mean?
In between looking at silly junk mail, I ran my eye over a news item today. It was filler, sure. Not a breaking news story. Merely a manipulative piece of fluff intended to make you click on your computer, so somebody could sell something.
The story was about a woman – from her picture, attractive, from her biography, competent and self-giving – whose husband died ten years ago, days before his planned retirement. How she'd been grief-stricken, how her friends had rallied round her, how since then, she had served three tours in Afghanistan and was now retiring herself. How she wished she could have read the retirement speech her husband had written, but she can't.
Because the speech was in his computer. Which was lost when his Pentagon office was struck in the 9/11 attacks.
Not silly, no. And sad. This woman, who is now 56, and has spent the intervening years on a war front, is an admirable person. But the story angers me. I am angry at whoever made this woman suffer. I am angry at a situation that continues to make people suffer. I am angry at my own powerlessness to do much about it except write more drivel.
Above all, I am angry at a world that is so full of insoluble problems and people with murderous agendas that we can't afford to take a few weeks off.
If we stay angry all the time, we will accomplish nothing. Our anger is ineffectual. Our devotion to causes, however noble, can drain our creativity and leave us with nothing to fight with. We need to stop and smell the roses. We need to recharge our batteries. We need to accomplish any and all of the clichéd things we need to do to maintain ourselves as sane, functioning human beings. Because the fate of the world depends on it.
We need space in which to think – or the ideas will not come. A bleeding world needs those ideas.
Bring back the silly season, people. Stop and do nothing – creatively. The world will thank you.
Now, as I was saying about Natasha...