Thanks for joining me on the voyage. As promised, this week’s piece is shorter to give your sweet eyes a break and say thanks for reading my short story, "The Crypt Game" over the past two weeks.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about foolishness.
It started when, on the way home from drinks, my friend Sacha mentioned she was thinking of getting into roller skating. Immediately, a wave of YES rose up within me and that night we declared it would be the summer of roller skating. I immediately went to the internet and dropped a not-insignificant amount of cash on a pair of bright yellow quad roller skates. I traced an outline of my foot on a piece of printer paper, measured the length, hit that ‘add to cart’ button, and then impatiently waited for my skates to arrive.
When they got here, I went out and got myself a sparkly rainbow gold helmet, ‘sunset’ coloured knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards, and then met another friend we’d recruited to be part of our skate gang at the tennis court by her house where we played pop tunes on a portable speaker and hobble-glided around the asphalt like rolling grannies.
It was foolish. It was fun. It was good. I think I’ve discovered that not enough of my waking adult life is spent being an idiot. Not like the, ‘oh man, I forgot to put gas in my car and now I might break down on the highway,’ kind of idiot, but the, ‘I wonder if I put my arms out and make plane noises I’ll go faster?’ kind of blissful stupidity. Fun-stupid. Happy stupid. Lying-in-the-sun eating popsicles stupid. No plans for the evening other than roller skating and swapping favourite ‘90s hip hop lyrics kind of meaningless dumb wonder. The lack of a need to be ‘right’ by any means. To be right is just to be out there enjoying yourself with no need to be ‘good’.
In a way, this is an extension of the thoughts I was having around doing nothing a few weeks ago. If doing nothing is about giving yourself permission to stop, then this kind of joyful stupidity is about giving yourself permission to play. To give up your shame; of not being good enough, looking good enough, or acting a fool.
Surprise, surprise. I have a great poem here from the great Japanese Tea Master Sen no Rikyu that applies to this. We were reading some of his poems in the teahouse a few weeks ago, and this one stuck with me.
A person must discard all embarrassment when training in tea, this is the foundation of mastery. - Rikyū’s Hundred Poems of Chanoyu (#4)
For mastery, we must discard all embarrassment.
Think about what that really means. Too often the people and institutions we think of as masters, or of having mastery, embody the fear of looking like a fool. They’re haughty. But only a fool can ask questions; only a fool can try something without fear. Fools are the ones who lead us to the truth. Take the character Feste, from Shakespeare’s ‘12th Night’. Throughout the whole play, he’s really the only one who has a sense of what’s going on.
I think about all the times fear has almost gotten me. If it had, I wouldn’t be attempting roller skating or sharing stories with you here. That voice would have been silenced. I wouldn’t be the girl with bad grammar in Japanese class just outright saying things wrong (but with confidence and friendliness!). My enjoyment would have been murdered by embarrassment or stolen by the act of comparing.
It is interesting how we often feel shame in our interests. But, consequently, how our shame often leads us to our truth.
If I prioritized not looking like an idiot, I probably wouldn’t have booked a glow-in-the-dark trampoline dodgeball party for my 31st birthday at the end of this month. Although, I did have to explain to the nice woman on the phone that, yes, I was looking to book a party for adults.
When I watched the new Lil Nas X music video for ‘Montero’, all I could think about was: what a freaking amazing clap back at shame. And also, how I would have worshipped this in Grade 9 and shown it to absolutely everyone during lunch hour. In case it needs to be said: I went to a Catholic school, obviously.
So, talking about you now: What would discarding shame look like for you? What’s something you really want to try and be stupid at, but fear is holding you back? We’re here for a bit, and then we’re gone, and what a shame it would be if you didn’t get a chance to do that thing you really wanted to do.
Depending on where you are in the world right now, you might be thinking about what a post-pandemic life might look like. If you’re like me, you might even be judging your feelings about what you want to keep and what you want to change based on your pandemic experience.
In the category of what comes next, there are still so many questions, and there’s still plenty of time for you to decide who you want to be when this pandemic ends. What lessons you want to keep, and what things will still be the same. We’ve learned so much about ourselves during this time: from just how much can be accomplished in loungewear, to how unnecessary some of the artifice and rules we used to stick to — because ‘this is the only way society can work’ — were. And, if we can make a life amidst the crisis of the pandemic, just what else might be possible? What can we bring into this new world?
To play off Rumi:
Out beyond the pandemic and beyond shame, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
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