MEANEY & HOYT: Our Need for the Nonsensical
The State of Nature
Published: Monday, March 19, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 00:03
As the mimsy days of winter pass and a frabjous spring arrives, it seems there’s no better time than now to write a column about nonsense.
No, the wear and tear of midterms didn’t wreak that much havoc on our brains. Rather, the transition of seasons sparks a flurry of imaginations. It inspires a realization: Nothing makes a wearied mind more beamish than the beauty of babble.
In fact, it’s fair to dispute the nonsense label we used at the start. It’s not that the above words lack sense. Instead, they distort sense. They evoke a range of inferences, full of allusions and associations that splash at the surface of meaning. But this isn’t a column meant to stretch your critical reading skills. Rest your brain for a minute. Turn it off. Shutter the constant committee instructing you to churn out another paper, study for a test or fulfill your social obligations at The Tombs or Rhino.
Instead, the warm weather reminds us of just how frumious it can be to occupy an analytic space during every waking moment at Georgetown. Aside from the enlightened (though probably job less) English majors with creative writing specialties, not many of us step away from the serious side of the university. We run and push and claw our way to success, with the occasional break to socialize.
It’s not much of a surprise that Georgetown doesn’t foster a lightness of spirit. Let’s be honest: We’re not Brown University (despite our “hipster” ranking in College Magazine). Most of us enjoy the satisfaction of an orderly letter grade or instutionalized majors.
It doesn’t need to be that way. There isn’t a strict split between the carefree and the career-driven. You’re allowed to procrastinate without feeling guilty. All of us should, every once in a while, enjoy the jabberwocky of life.
Nonsensical language and imagination draws from the likes of Shakespeare, the brothers Grimm and — most famously — Lewis Carroll. Those three would hold one hell of a tea party.
And, even though they don’t say it enough, the Jesuits love a bit of nonsense as well. None of us will ever quite know what shenanigans go on in Wolfington Hall after 9 p.m. But we do know, as Fr. James Martin, S.J., once wrote, that “humor and laughter are at the heart of the spiritual life.”
The beauty of nonce is that it stems from levity of spirit. To create a word with no intent to use it ever again requires lightheartedness. That attitude can be virtuous. When every moment of life isn’t scheduled, directed and driven, you’re free to make the most of any moment.
So, with that in mind, outgrabe as you walk around campus. Whistle a little more. Bellow in public. It doesn’t matter how your voice sounds, though you may want to keep your singing to daylight hours for the sanity of light sleepers.
Georgetown need not be a school of repressed professionals. We should feel free to express ourselves in places other than office hours, Lau 2 and Red Square.
The tulgey life of a doldrum education weighs heavy on the soul. But in ambiguity and uncertainty there’s happiness. All of us, on occasion, should make light of the entirely too serious life of a Georgetown undergrad. All of us should speak a bit of nonsense, just for fun.
Not everything is fit for critical interpretation. As Mark Twain wrote at the start of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.”
Don’t risk death. Set aside your analytical mind and — every once in a while — live.
Mike Meaney is a senior in the School of Foreign Service and Matthew Hoyt is a senior in the College. They are the former president and director of communications of the Georgetown University Student Association, respectively. THE STATE OF NATURE appears every other Tuesday.