The Holiness of Nonsense and Merrymaking

‘I’ve found out who’s been nicking our beetroot. I caught him red handed!’ 

‘I used to play the triangle in a reggae band but I left because it was just one ting after another.’ 

‘I just interviewed a bloke for a job. “Can you perform under pressure?” I asked. No he replied. But I do a great bohemian rhapsody.’ 

‘The police came round last night and told me my dogs were chasing people on bikes. Not sure I said, my dogs don’t even have bikes’ 

Ah…the jokes of Bob Mortimer. I love Bob Mortimer. From the smell of Reeves and Mortimer to the Big night Out, Shooting Stars to Would I lie to you, and Taskmaster to Gone Fishing.* I’ve watched the shows, read his books, listened to his podcast. For me, there is something significant about the nonsense and absurdity he brings. I know nonsense is not for everyone. Some just find it…well, nonsense. Yet as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a penchant for nonsense. It’s the unexpected nature of it, the mischief, the creativity, the freedom, the pure joy it can bring. There is certainly something holy about nonsense.  

Last week a few of us headed into the National Gallery of Ireland. What a wonderous place. An artwork, titled ‘Peasants Merrymaking’, caught my eye. The description reads ‘A group of peasants with a dog and some sheep are making merry in the foreground of a vast landscape that includes a dramatic rain cloud and a colourful rainbow. Four of the peasants dance to the tunes of a bagpipe player, while another tries to lure a young woman with a pail to join them. Several other drunken peasants, appearing further up the path, make their way towards them. In the distance lies a stately castle.’ The picture made me smile. I was intrigued by the lighting, bright colouring pouring in around the peasants. Dark clouds coming on the distance. If I was a character on the canvas, I think I’d want to be alongside the peasants rather than in the stately home.  

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance’ Ephesians 1:18  

Flooded with light. What a beautiful idea. Sometimes  I feel like the opposite is true. It’s why I’ve purposefully turned my back on social media and 24/7 news in recent months. I don’t want to be ignorant of what is happening but I equally do not want to enveloped in a cloud of doom. Is the world heading for disaster? Could be. Social Media and 24/7 news made sure I constantly, relentlessly heard that message loud and clear. I keep reminding myself of Ursula Le Guin’s marvellous sentence. ‘No darkness lasts forever. And even there, there are stars.’  

‘Can you make me breakfast in bed? Asked the wife. No sorry love, I’ll have to go to the kitchen’ And then there is Bob Mortimer.  

I’ve resolved to be an optimist by choice. Optimism just seems to logically be the best choice. It’s more fun, more hopeful, lighter in all sorts of ways. Pessimism just seems bleak to me. I think there is a holiness to nonsense and merrymaking because those are the activities of the optimist. Or at least those activities can and often do, create optimism even if only short term. They project delight upon and into the world, flood it… if you will.  

I don’t want to live out my days with suspicion, bitterness and contempt for all around me. So I endeavour to make nonsense and merrymaking a calling and a practise. Not to ignore oppression and corruption, but to put those things in there place. To know that jovial and juvenile humour, so quickly dismissed, is a glimpse to what can be. Radiant pinpricks of light. Full of mischief, creativity, freedom, joy.  

There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in’ Leonard Cohen 

* I’d even be happy to watch a few episodes of Randall and Hopkirk or House of fools.  

Theme photo by Johannes Plenio

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