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Post details: Silly of the Valley

Silly of the Valley

Kids have an unusual propensity for silliness. They also have a very fluid mind. I think there is a causal relationship here.

Last weekend I visited a friend of mine, whose two pre-school daughters never cease to amaze me with their willingness to adopt and magnify the silliest ideas I could possibly imagine. On Saturday, we went for an easy stroll to a public park in the Raritan Valley. I used the gravel road tracing a quiet stretch of the river as a runway for demonstrating my newest rendition of Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks. The girls caught on with vigor and resourcefulness that no adult could ever muster, virtually negating their dad's previous efforts to highlight the virtues of proper ladylike demeanor.

Kids' mind is as malleable as it is hungry for absorbing new stimuli. It has no prejudices, no ruts and its components can reconfigure themselves with such ease that you'd think that their mental engine has been submerged in a potent lubricant. And I think that this lubricant is silliness - that mysterious state of mind that has all the attributes necessary for liberating it from the shackles of friction: it is random, imaginative, irreverent and provocative. Thoughts can freely swivel around arbitrary axes, glibly slide into new positions or even leapfrog over the trench of conventions and run wild into the infinite prairie of possibilities.

Where kids' neural networks resemble jungles of axons, constantly reassembling their synaptic connections as they grow, older people's mind is more reminiscent of a petrified forest. When they ponder problems, you can almost hear the creaking of the levers and gears, the huffing and puffing of the whole structure. Splinters and dust fly all over the place, clouds of steam are leaking through the joints. But there is no lubricant. Their sailboats are stranded in the shoals of routine, far from the refreshing winds of silliness. So far away in fact that when silliness actually comes to them, they will most likely knock on their foreheads, inadvertently revealing the advancing hollowness of their skulls.

Some people just take themselves way too seriously. They never run in the rain, they do not throw coins into fountains, they do not collect dolphin shaped pebbles. They forget to take proper care of their most precious engine, and after years of neglect, their thoughts move in awkward starts and fits. They'd rather blow their head gaskets than pour little oil into the crankcase. Eventually, they become prisoners of their own lives. They move routinely from one predictable party to another and there they sip the same English tea that they have been sipping for the past 20 years and discuss their near life experiences with other inmates while looking out of the window at those who drink life straight from the bottle.

I am not suggesting that we should all become clowns. Everything in moderation my grandma used to say. I have seen minds that were so fluid that they were unable to hold any coherent thought - think hunting a bar of soap on the shower floor. Some grip is necessary. But if you have to use WD-40 anytime you encounter a new idea, it maybe time to relax a little bit and kick back. Take a look around. If you see a statue of a stately lion in front of your municipal office building, do not hesitate and hop on it. Your mind will be glad you did.

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