Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Importance of Silly Things

When I was a tiny pup, my mom would come and say goodnight after I'd gotten into bed.  We'd read together, trading off reading a Narnia book or one of the Stuart Little stories.  There'd be a little prayer, and then, when that was done, we'd share sillies.

Sillies were, for a while, as formal as any liturgy.  Kind of.

Doing Sillies meant you would say something absurd, or tell a joke, or make a funny face.  Because those things are fun to do, and enjoying a moment together is vital for human life.  It was a little ritual of intimacy, a light and shared moment of pleasure, although back when I was five or six, I probably wouldn't have articulated it that way.

It was just nice, and The Thing We Did At Bedtime.

The other day, I was writing up some explanatory text for a particularly obscure story of horror.  It's a tale that reads like conventional horror, only...it's not.  It's told from a compromised point of view, meaning, you can't trust your narrator to really know what's happening. 

It was also an exploration of the process of semantic creep, as a term that once meant one thing can...over time and through evolving usage...come to mean something very different.

And in the thicket of studying that process, I discovered something I hadn't known.

Centuries upon centuries ago, back when English was a very different language, "silly" had a completely different meaning.  It had not yet gathered about it connotations of folly or absurdity.  It didn't mean preposterous.

To be "silly" meant to be blessed, to be gentle and accepting, to be holy in the simple way that the sainted and the innocent are holy.  "Silly" people were trusting, giving, and without guile.

Human beings being what they are, that began to take on the connotation of being naive and easily tricked, because predators, grifters and con-men have always sought out the trusting and the gentle of spirit.  Which morphed into meaning you were foolish, which became the dominant meaning.  Don't be silly.

Only now, silly feels different again.  Silly is...funny.  Preposterous.  Perhaps a little bit delightful.

Like the things we share, moments of laughter and lightness and ease, as we human creatures giggle together at the absurdity of our existence, innocently mischievous in the way that little ones can be.  Which in this era defined by violence and deception, by bright blinding lights of ideologues and the cold unforgiving self-certainty of partisans, seems to be a thing set aside.

It feels, perhaps, like silliness is returning to holiness.

It's a welcome return.