Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Silly Stories for Serious Times :: Letters to my Nephews


I'm afraid that the news is not good.  My generation is set to pass to yours a world fraught with serious problems and fractured by divisions that are deeper than ever before.  At some point, we will toss you the keys to this world and our problems will be your problems.

I lived through the end of the cold war and I can give you a bit of advice for going on with. There is really only one time-honored and proven way to get through these tough times. In serious times, silliness gets us through.  Revel in it. Never turn your back on it.
Most of the best silly still comes from Great Britain. You're too young for Monty Python or Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but I look forward to you coming to an age when you're able to appreciate them. I don't even care that they were already a bit dated when I first encountered them. True silliness is timeless. It transcends piddling things like time, space and culture.

We really should figure out how to harness the stuff. We'd be flitting about it jetpacks and time machines in no time.

Where was I?

Oh, right.  American silliness had its heyday in the time of your great grandfathers and it's high time we woke it back up. Sadly, our strategic reserves of silly seem almost tapped out and I don't know where we will find more. So much of current comedy has become political, acerbic, droll, deeply ironic, and/or some combination of all three. I can appreciate that trend on some levels. There are far too many things going on that beg us to laugh at them to keep from crying about them.  But with humor of that stripe, you're never quite certain if people are laughing because the joke was funny or because they're uncomfortable.

The only prescription for times when even the humor becomes tinged with sadness is hefty innoculations of silly.

Sadly, our country has been importing our silliness for so long that we've all but forgotten how to make our own, which makes it more important that we find and nurture all the silliness that we can find.

This is one reason why I spent the last few months writing a silly story about a young lad standing with his family and friends in the face of serious events (it really doesn't get much more serious than an alien invasion, in my opinion) and breaking it down with unrelenting silliness.

There are people who will sniff at you when you tell them you write humor, or - worse yet - science fiction. There are many who think I've lost my mind, devoting so much time to delving into the absurd when there are so many deeply troubling issues to explore.

They're wrong.

Being silly is never a waste of time. And people who are serious all the time are missing the real joy of being alive. And I refuse to give in to that mode of thinking. All the terrible things happening in the world is no excuse not to have a laugh or take time to dream. When you can do both at once, that's a real gift.

Our sense of humor is perhaps our greatest gift as human beings. Our willingness to embrace the absurd is part and parcel to our ability to cope when the going gets tough. Sometimes you just have to throw your hands up and laugh.

Your silly uncle Scott


  1. A HUGE amen to all of this! I grew up in rough circumstances, but my mom always found a way to make me smile. She was always quick to point out that you can't change hard times but can definitely change how you respond to them. The best way to get through without a heart attack was to laugh.

    Sometimes she'd go through spells of depression, but this was her guiding force and I'm glad for it. Silliness doesn't come quite as easily to me as it did to her, but I learned a few lessons I'm "deploying" in hard times and playtime with my toddler.

    Being surly is easy. It's finding the grace to be silly that takes effort! It's an effort, of course, that's rewarded a hundredfold.

    Thanks for the reminder :)


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