April 1, 2004

April Foolsí Day





I barely consider April first a bona fide holiday, although Iíve marked it each year. Donít get me wrong, Iím all for humor, and there ought to be a day devoted to laughter. Laughing is one of my favorite things to do; a genuine ecstasy: an involuntary spasmodic ripple of the body that we find mysteriously enjoyable, issuing forth in a guttural meta-language which is universally understood. Itís sort of like sex, but easier to come by.

So my post from 2000 was a joke, albeit a lame one. The thing I donít care for is that the day is often given over to practical jokes, which are not my favorite form of humor. They come down to playing a trick on someone, and then having a laugh at their expense. I donít want to fool people, and I can rarely remember a typical story-type joke. I prefer what I would call wit: humor extracted out of normal, everyday converse by means of unexpected twists and turns of thought and word. I guess this can amount to tricking up someone elseís mind or tongue, but the hope is that everyone is in on the joke, leading us all on a little mental flight which, at best, winds up with everybody getting one of those weird gut-spasms.

The picture essay from 2002 is more along those lines, though I donít mean to suggest that Iím any great wit. Which, I suppose, means Iím witless. Well, we all are, from time to time. That was my subject in 2001, when I focused on how birdwatching can make a fool of the observer, and even lead one to fool oneself. Thatís the most dangerous kind of fool; the one we really need to look out for.

Fittingly, no one is even sure where the April Fool tradition comes from. One story is that it relates to that Gregorian calendar reform I keep coming back to, and the original fools were the people who didnít make the date change but kept on celebrating the New Year in the Spring. I donít think itís always foolish to be out of step with the masses, and being on the wrong schedule provides a useful excuse for missing unpleasant appointments and such. Iíve been a bit out of step my whole life, and Iíve spent much of it among people who are proud to be so: the bohemians of your so-called counter culture. We like to think our foolishness is a form of superiority, but thatís a real joke; most likely on us.

Actually, I was always a compromised bohemian (as if thereís any other kind.) Too timid to truly detach myself, I hung on to the ďsecurityĒ of a ďreal worldĒ job. Now thatís gone, and Iíve only my own foolishness to blame. But life is like that: sometimes we laugh ourselves to tears, and sometimes we laugh to keep from crying. Either way, weíre just another body that canít do more with its thoughts and feelings than to trigger some uncontrollable rolling gush of sound or fluid. If that makes us feel better, then I guess we live in a foolsí paradise.

Paradise; paradox: a pair of dice: each year rolls them all together. Last yearís poem was about what really happens at Aprilís advent: we get that first whiff of Spring. Just a little at first; a nice day, then a nasty one, but enough to remind us that life is worth living, or that it will be lived, whether we will or nil, and weíd be fools, or nihilists, to turn our backs on it. We will have an eternity to ďgetĒ the joke of nothingness, but April is our chance to let laughter reign, doused though we be by showers of rain or showers of tears.

- alex 4-01-2004 6:35 pm

return to: Mr. Wilson's Arboretum

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