In Praise of Acting Stupid

2010 March 18

New litmus test for personal compatibility: Are you willing to crash a movie set w/ me? Take a rubber bullet to the shoulder if you have to?

– Moi via Twitter

I knew before I even hung up the phone that I’d made a mistake. An uncharacteristically amateur mistake at that. It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission. Truth.

I was calling to see if I could swing by the movie set, check things out, maybe snap a few pictures and turn it into a feature for True/Slant. Yes, I’ve become the kind of person who skulks around movie sets, decides to turn her living room into a homage to The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, tries to convince friends to go on a wild goose chase for a kombucha starter (in order to brew a fermented tea that may or may not kill me) or to stalk Mitt Romney on his book tour (Does he really look that much like Guy Smiley in real life? I must know). Mixed in with the manic pixie dream girl antics are some legitimately solid plans to pursue opportunities and adventures ( I say this word a lot lately. A LOT.) of both the travel and business-based variety.

Photo by roberthuffstutter

Lately, I’ve been on a one-woman whimsy campaign. Instead of moping about the fact that I don’t have my own Algonquin Roundtable on speed dial, or that no one wants to blow off the day-to-day grind to cover Route 66 with me or play hide-and-seek in Central Park (I’m still accepting applications, though), I will spend that energy encouraging people to reconnect with their own whimsical impulses. When is the last time you daydreamed something that wasn’t related to money, power or love/sex? Or gave yourself permission to act unabashedly and impetuously silly, without the cover of alcohol or having to entertain small children? When did the definition of fun get so narrow as to only include “age-appropriate” peer-sanctioned activities?  Would you even know adventure if it bit you?

What does the bolder, braver, giddier, riskier you look like? How does he/she live? How do you get there from here?

And yes, if you’re reading this and fuming about the fact that I’m not taking into account people who face legitimate limitations on their freedom of movement (both literal and financial, familial, etc.) and thinking about the fact that you’ve been in a wheelchair since 16, so how the hell are you supposed to climb a $#%^ tree and JMH should just shut up with her ableist bourgeois privilege already, please know that I’m not here to provide you with a laundry list of 14 whimsical things everyone needs to do before they die. Frankly, that isn’t my style. Can’t climb a tree? Scared of heights? Fine. What I’m advocating is getting in touch with your primal, innocent imagination, allowing yourself to dream in technicolor and to start chipping away at the purely intellectual barriers and objections to living out these silly vignettes in whatever form they might take. Maybe that does involves waking up at 6:30 AM to go swing on the swing set at the park across the street or maybe it involves drafting fanciful plans to give your home office a complete steampunk makeover. The substance doesn’t matter, the act of prying your mind open to the possibilities is what counts, getting comfortable with the consideration of yourself as something other than acutely self-conscious and aware of being watched and judged at all times. It comes down to easing off the throttle of your “but what will the world think?” impulse control and allowing yourself to muse about what you would do and how you would behave if no one was watching, ever. What does the bolder, braver, giddier, riskier you look like? How does he/she live? How do you get there from here?

Carpe diem is scalable. Infinitely scalable. Start with your own imagination if you’ve let it fall into disuse. Start testing its boundaries. Toss it the keys and try to get comfortable in the passenger seat (don’t forget to buckle up, though). Manifestation can come later. There are plenty of (literal and figurative) trees and swing sets to go around.

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Related GenMeh goodness:

The Truth Will Set You Free
Why Getting Your Heart Broken Is Good For You
What You Believe About Yourself Is A Lie