We live in some very perilous times. While the Covid-19 pandemic is mostly in our rearview mirror, the fractures in our society that we all observed during our many months of lockdown remain. We continue to be extremely polarized. Our politics have become, for the most part, a zero-sum game that prevents our government from working the way it was intended. Evidence of increases in acts of Antisemitism, White Nationalism and intolerance generally are everywhere. Messages of hate which used to be whispered are now brazenly spoken and published.
And with all of the wildfires burning out of control in British Columbia and Quebec, we can’t even pretend that moving to Canada is an option for us. So what, pray tell, can a normal, thinking, rational person do to make it through the week?
Try something silly.
But don’t just take my word for it. Peer-reviewed psychological studies have demonstrated that playful people — those who are spontaneous and fun loving — are at an advantage when it comes to coping with stress and finding solutions to problems. In fact, learning to be silly allows you to open your mind to creativity. As a result, when a friend of mine called the other day and told me he had an incredibly silly idea for us, I told him I was “in” before he could even present his proposal.
My friend (let’s call him John) walked out of an office building in downtown Birmingham recently and noted that the crosswalks had more than a passing resemblance to Abbey Road in London. We could recreate the iconic image that appeared on the Beatles’ album of the same name.
Since I didn’t own a white suit and didn’t like the idea of walking barefoot on a city street, I volunteered to be George. John (not his real name) didn’t own a white suit either but he bought a white sport coat at Nordstrom, kept the tags on and immediately returned the garment when our photoshoot ended. Neither was it difficult to recruit Paul or Ringo. Of course, the fact that we were all in our late 60’s and basically retired certainly helped the recruiting effort.
Our plan was to meet at a local restaurant, have lunch and then recreate the shot. We knew traffic would be an issue, but we were amazed at how long people would simply stop and stare. They knew what we were up to, they just wanted to figure out if we were anyone of note. (Clearly not.) On multiple occasions people driving by would raise a fist through their window and shout “Abbey Road” as if acknowledging a shared artifact we all know and love. We were also able to enlist a random pedestrian who not only acted as photographer but also had some strong ideas about directing the shot.
Most adults would bristle at being called “silly” but that word actually comes from the old English word “selig,” which is literally defined as being blessed, happy and prosperous. I can’t think of three better descriptors for a life well lived. In fact, I would argue that we all need to embrace the silly. Force yourself to do something incredibly silly and you’ll never feel bad doing something just a little silly again. It’s actually quite liberating. Once in a while, we all need to let our inner goofball shine.
Abbey Road was the last studio album that the Beatles recorded. Released in the fall of 1969, the band broke up just a few months later. The song Octopus’ Garden appears on Abbey Road. It is only the second song that Ringo wrote for the Beatles (credited to Richard Starkey). The lyrics are as whimsical as you remember them. When asked about the song, Ringo said that it arose out of his desire to escape the increasing hostility within the group; he said that he had “just wanted to be under the sea, too.”
Ringo got it. Life is too short to be serious all the time:
Oh what joy
For every girl and boy
Knowing they're happy
And they're safe
Paul and John could appreciate the theraputic value of getting back to where we once belonged:
Here come old flattop he come grooving up slowly
He got joo-joo eyeball he one holy roller
He got hair down to his knee
Got to be a joker he just do what he please
And even George was onto something:
Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right
In the end, we got both the album cover shot. (Beatles by us; Beetle by Photoshop.)
...and a famous candid of the boys primping before entering the crosswalk.
We had more fun than even we anticipated and, frankly, the pictures turned out a lot better than we feared. In fact, we had so much fun, we can’t wait to get out there and do something silly again.
After all, the possibilities are endless…