Monty Python, Amadeus, and How Being Silly Can Change The World

Monty Python: Still silly about the serious stuff.
Monty Python: Still silly about the serious stuff.

I was listening to the Monty Python Sings album while I was sewing the other day, and it got me thinking about the importance of not taking myself too seriously. No serious topic is safe from the Pythons: not philosophy, not art, not religion, not politics, — not even death. I admire them for tackling the big, unwieldy, and uncomfortable topics of life, and making me smile in the process.

In my own work, I’ve discovered that when I focus on those very topics — the big, serious, meaningful stuff of our lives — I can no longer write. It’s one of the reasons I remind myself every time I sign up for NaNoWriMo to “keep it silly”. If I try to write something important, I wind up writing something ponderous, pompous, or worst of all, dead.

Lofty characters and lofty themes are admirable. But they don’t work for me. As Mozart says in the movie Amadeus:

Come on now, be honest! Which one of you wouldn’t rather listen to his hairdresser than Hercules? Or Horatius, or Orpheus… people so lofty they sound as if they shit marble!

Humor can loosen us up and still get us to the deep, profound, and important places we want to go. As an example of how being light-hearted can change the world, here’s a TED talk by Jay Silver. His kit for connecting computers to anything, from pizza to Play-Doh, allows for playful, silly creation. That very same kit is inspiring people to solve serious problems like computer accessibility for the handicapped. Silly and serious, all in one package.

It’s only 13 minutes long, but if you’re in a real hurry, jump ahead to 4:55. That’s when the mind-bending silly stuff starts to happen. You’ll be hooked from then on, trust me.

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Kit Dunsmore

Kit Dunsmore has believed in the magic underlying the muggle world since she was a child searching for the Shetland pony pooka she was sure was hiding in her back yard. She learned early on that books were magic doors into other worlds, and that she could revisit a beloved character or place by opening the right book. As she grew, she decided she wanted to make magic with words, too. Today Kit writes about things she loves: poodles and dragons, witches and artists, quirky underdogs and loyal friends. Whether her setting is 6th-century England, the imaginary Twelve Kingdoms, or an art-obsessed version of modern America, magic always finds its way into her story. She enjoys turning fairy tales inside out and watching characters sacrifice everything to reach their goal, but she also believes in happy endings. When she isn't writing, Kit experiences magic by making things with her hands. Over the years, she's made quilts, fabric sculptures, collages, sweaters, and blank books. Her newest interest is learning how to spin her own yarn, a skill guaranteed to strengthen one of her many delusions: that she is a self-sufficient pioneer woman. She also thinks she is a hobbit, a witch, an artist, and a good cook. Living in the foothills of Colorado, Kit enjoys the giant skies and prairie landscapes which suit her need for wide open spaces. In addition to hiking through glorious scenery with her husband or imagining herself living in the Middle Ages, Kit works as a pillow for her miniature poodle and polishes the next small piece of her handmade life.

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