I have recently been reading about the amazing life of that rebellious Python: the late, great Graham Chapman, beautifully summarised in the treasure-trove of monologues, essays, and anecdotes that is Calcium Made Interesting (2005). Through absorbing the biography at the beginning of this book, it struck me just how much Chapman loved, nay, depended, on the absurd. He didn’t do things for attention, for the rolling camera – he did them purely for his own amusement. For example, he was once invited to speak at the Oxford Union. He turned up to the speech dressed as carrot, and didn’t say a word for twenty minutes. Brilliant!
I think a lot of people could benefit from allowing a little of the absurd into their lives. For me, little moments of lunacy brighten up my days, particularly those long grey stretches at work. It might be true that others don’t necessarily see the funny side, as I tend to find things that aren’t all that amusing…amusing! But it makes me smile, and that is all that matters, as long as nobody gets hurt or upset, wouldn’t you agree? On a regular basis, I see so many drab people shuffling through life with absolutely no hint of joy in their dull eyes. These are people trapped inside strict parameters, unable to escape the grey cell they have created for themselves, people who find it impossible to look at things from a different viewpoint. And that is an essential key to true absurdity: in observing life from a completely different perspective. As a boy, Graham Chapman took this quite literally. He placed a chair inside his kitchen sink and sat in it, so he could obtain a view of his kitchen from a totally different angle. How wonderful is that?
When we begin to look at life from a different viewpoint, that is when new ideas start to form. New theories are conjured, and we open up. To coin a phrase, we ‘broaden our horizons’. It enhances us as people, and, of course, it gives us plenty of new and fresh opportunities to be absurd.
Some people might describe absurdity as a form of madness or lunacy. Others will liken it to simply having a good time. And despite the ups and downs of his life, Graham Chapman certainly had a good time during his all-too-brief stay upon this lonely sphere we call Earth.
So go on, let a bit of absurdity into your life. Bring a smile to your face, and hopefully somebody else’s. Battle the relentless tidal wave of so-called ‘normal’ people, trapped in the safe and mundane – too afraid to fly in case they soar too close to the sun.
Whether it’s sitting in the sink or atop a wardrobe, to get a different perspective of a room; or dressing up as a carrot to a public speech; or wandering up to a complete stranger and reassuring them that you can be trusted around poultry…just do it. Be absurd. Be different. But most important of all, be yourself. I’m sure Graham would have approved.