I’m delighted to be back in MythBlast land – as Steve alluded to, I was the first editor of this series while I sat on the JCF Board, and am really in awe of what it’s grown into under Brad Olson’s leadership. And I’m looking forward to chatting here with you all in COHO!
Ah, frivolity. So many things… I’ll try to be reasonably brief, and spare you the whole dissertation.
I came at frivolity as a way to blow open the need to be big, important, to ‘matter’ – particularly as we imagine. I think it can free us up from being fixated on outcomes, and accordingly blow out barriers to imagining. (It also felt like the perfect response to the existential question, “what possible use could a doctorate in myth have?” It’s a rather exquisitely frivolous degree…)
I think this is important as we work -and play – myth. It’s so easy for it all to be so portentous and heavy, and I think we can get weighed down by that and lose the point. I got inspired by an idea from Kant, in Critique of Judgment, on the ‘purposefulness of purposelessness.’ I transmuted this a bit into the ‘point of pointlessness.’ I love the koan in this, the paradox – I think myth holds so much paradox – and I love what opens when we sit in the dissonance of it. I think that’s where the juice lies in myth – in that opening, that dissonance.
On a praxis level, part of why I think frivolity matters when we’re thinking mythically is how it can shape the art of seeing. I talk a lot about ‘seeing through’ as the action of working with myth. Frivolity invites us to see the things out of the corners of our eyes (BTW, check out Ed Casey’s writings on the glance if this intrigues you).
A little excerpt from my book Psyche’s Choice:
Frivolity is, simply, is a move off center. It is a turn left when a world tells you that it is most responsible to march forward. How powerful this is, in its small way! Take a moment and look up from the screen you’re reading this on. Look around you. What do you see? What’s in front of you? What’s the view, what are the barriers, what is keeping you in or out or on track or off of it? Now simply turn yourself to the left and look in front of you. Suddenly, the world is a different place. Frivolity is that small and that explosive a move. Turn left and the world is different. Frivolity is the light, the quicksilver, the jester – David wearing a clown nose as he faces the giant and takes him down – a delightful bit of fluff that paradoxically opens the universe to infinity in its very smallness. And like the jester, frivolity doesn’t take itself seriously, even as it pokes at the seriousness around it. It flips about flippantly, inviting us to take ourselves lightly as well.
Ultimately, it’s a rebellious move. The word ‘frivol’ comes from the same etymological roots as ‘revel’ and ‘rebel.’
I think this rebelliousness matters when we’re in the world of myth, too. I think we always need to be pushing at our assumptions of what it is and how it works in our psyches, so it becomes a force of ongoing questions that open our sense of the world, rather than a set of dogmas by which we should live.
Yours in liberté, egalité, frivolité…