Now and again we need to, if not celebrate, then engage in, frivolity. I just looked the word up in the dictionary: Frivolity, noun, ‘behaviour, not acting seriously.’ Genevieve de Stael-Holstein was a German aristocrat, though of Italian heritage, who described frivolity as: “…under whatever form it appears, deprives attention of its power, thought of its originality, and sentiment of its depth,” thus touching on the realities of the lighter side of life, but let’s be a little more frivolous shall we?
I see frivolous behaviour as that in which we abandon our worries, cares, concerns apprehensions, anxieties, bother, distress, unease, disquietude, agitation, stress and strain.
It should be a time when you, for a few moments, abandon any need to be an adult, and let the inner child out. Smile, laugh and release your inhibitions, and become again that joyful, artless individual that your wife fell in love with, your husband married with love in his eyes, or whose parents watched them play on the swing.
De Stael got a lot of things right in my opinion, for though not globally noted, in her own society circles, and especially at a time of formality and decorous behaviour, she was a breath of fresh air. She felt able to say what she wanted to whomsoever she wanted. She dressed in her own, sometimes quite bawdy and uninhibited manner, that upset the local gentry, well, really, the local gentry’s wives. She was politically and intellectually active, God forbid, and felt very well disposed to her own opinions.
In fact, it was once said of her that, “there are three great powers struggling against Napoleon for the soul of Europe, England, Russia and Madame de Stael.” She spoke her mind with outrageous disregard for convention, enjoyed the patronage of kings and heads of state, and was also reputed to have said, “You must choose in life between boredom and suffering, though I will not.”
Noted poet Lord Byron wrote of her, “She was a good woman at heart and the cleverest at bottom, but spoilt by a wish to be — she not was. In her own house she was amiable; in any other person’s, you wished her gone, and in her own again.” I think that’s hilarious, beautiful words and an expression of the right and wrong of free expression in the same sentence.
But I digress.
I see frivolity, fun and laughter often, when I go to the local Grand Mall in Nizwa and watch the locals on the ice skating rink. The gay abandon with which the kids, young adults, and yes, some adults, cavort like playful Spring lambs in their field, on the immaculately groomed ice, is an absolute pleasure to watch. Faces wreathed in smiles, confidence and joy, it really is something.
At the ten-pin bowling alley there is a similar fun element. It’s just great to see all this happening in an environment fit for purpose, for I hate seeing kids playing in a moving car, on a motor scooter, or even playing football on a stony field, because I always feel like there are accidents waiting to happen.
I love to smile and be happy myself, but even more, I like to see it in others. Saint Basil wrote of frivolity that, “indulging in unrestrained laughter is a sign of intemperance, a desire for control over emotions, and a failure to repress frivolity with reason.” He may well be right, in fact, I’m sure he is… was. But really? Why should we abandon gaiety and laughter in the face of challenges? “No!” I say, “We should enlist them, and have the lighter side fight with us, for us, and in our place.”
Laughter rules, OK?