“Life happens too fast for you ever to think about it. If you could just persuade people of this, but they insist on amassing information.”
Kurt Vonnegut 1922-2007
A fantastic story appeared last week from Tom Hart Dyke – the Eccentric Gardener. Apparently he and a friend were plant-hunting in the South American jungle when they were kidnapped by the Indians. Trying to persuade them that they were not CIA agents but just two average joes who got lost in the jungle, they hit on the idea of singing and dancing to them.
They launched into the Pythons’ ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life‘ announcing it as the English National Anthem.
‘If Life seems jolly rotten – there’s something you’ve forgotten – Always look on the bright side of life’ one of them sang in a baritone, while the other leapt into the air with his knees up to his chin, waggling his hands.
Very soon the guerillas, sub-machine guns at their sides, were rolling around on the floor, crying with laughter.
Life of Brian could well be the funniest film ever made. Be that as it might, Tom Hart Dyke’s story tells us that extreme situations invite laughter or tears. Either are ok but I prefer laughter. The Life of Brian is full of characters – religious zealots, empire-builders, revolutionary conspirators, who just don’t get how funny they are when they are trying to be serious. In short, they are stuck in their heads. And the more pedantic they try to be, the funnier they are.
Now in the story Tom Hart Dyke tells it could have gone the other way. He and his friend could both have got very serious in a way that would have made things worse. The more worried they got the more those Indians would have gotten suspicious. But the crazy idea of doing that song broke through the barriers. Through laughter they avoided tragedy.
Which brings me to the late, great Kurt Vonnegut. This was a man who, as an American POW, survived the Dresden Fire Bombing in 1945 which wiped out 130,000 people. And who still managed to write SlaughterHouse 5, a book which is funny as well as grief-stricken for the men, women and children who died in the worst war in history.
God bless all those like the Pythons, Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Hart Dyke who give us the gift of laughter. Goodbye Blue Monday!
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