This post is brought to you, indirectly. It is a result of some conversations I’ve been having with the master of indirection, Alex Sternik, who, champion of Laughter Yoga in Israel, world renown proponent of Gibberish, is now focusing his work on a yet deeper, and even less-relevant art – nonsense.
Yes, Veronica, there is yet another flavor of fun, oft-tasted, yet hitherto uncategorized as such. Nonsensical fun. Which is, of course, a misnomer. Or perhaps a misternomer, depending on who’s noming. Because the fun of nonsense comes not from the absoluteness of its nonsensicality, but rather from its ability to sound like it’s not what it says it is.
There was an Old Man in a boat,
Who said, ‘I’m afloat, I’m afloat!’
When they said, ‘No! you ain’t!’
He was ready to faint,
That unhappy Old Man in a boat.
- Edward Lear – A Book of Nonsense
Almost makes sense. Just on this side of depth. That poor old man who thought he was afloat until he was told otherwise. A sad, sad commentary on the state of something.
Then there’s Ken Feit, who, in his Romance of Sound and Senses, plays with sounds that border somewhere between nonsense and deep sense. First, he describes his “play poem” – a brief piece of onomatopoetry:
thupa thupa thupa thupa thupa thupa thupa thupa
(loud and slow, then faster and softer…………….whisper)
And then he describes what he is describing:
A little boy is playing with a paddle ball, hitting the ball out into the air in a steady rhythm and silently counting to himself ….thupa thupa thupa thupa thupa thupa thupa thupa…when suddenly…fipp…the rubber band snaps and the ball goes bouncing away down the sidewalk, at first high bounces with long intervals …bip..bip…bip…bip, then middle bounces and shorter intervals…bip…bip…bip…bip and finally short bounces in rapid succession until the ball comes to a stop ….bipbipbipbipbipbipbip…buh.
And suddenly it all almost makes sense.
And Saul Steinberg who, in this semi-sensical drawing, captures the very art of conversation:
And organizations like Nonsense NYC that notifies people about:
Street events, loft parties, puppet shows, bike rallys, costume balls, interactive art shows, movies in unusual places, parades, outlaw dancing, guerilla theater, burlesque and variety shows, loser open mikes, cirkuses, and absurdist pranks. Nonsense covers the stuff that has no name, or a name that you feel really awkward and self-conscious saying out loud, like “underground.”
It doesn’t make sense. And yet, somehow, it closely approximates something more.
The very stuff of nonsense.