The Emperor's New Clothes
Have you ever wondered about the ending of the story of the little boy who pointed out that the Emperor, who was so proudly parading his new clothes through the streets, was stark naked? The story ends with the triumph of youthful clear-sightedness and the healthy effects of laughter over fear and self-delusion in the face of blind authority. Can you get ill from suppressing such laughter? As we hear the story of the Emperor's new clothes we laugh along with it and rejoice in the moral of the tale. The outcome is somehow deeply relieving, as if, for a moment, we could recapture some of the delicious naivety of our lost childhood and be free of the weighty considerations of adulthood. But are we not deluding ourselves with such an outcome? How many of us are surrounded by emperors big and small who daily don their costly clothes? Do we dare burst out laughing? Or does the weight of gaining our livelihood and the pressure of not seeming ridiculous hold us back? What if we are wrong? Or what if we are right but people still laugh at us instead?
What do we do with that clear-sighted knowledge that much of the glitter around us is without substance if not downright harmful? Do we dismiss it with a wave of the hand and move silently on? Do we stand up and take the risk of saying what we think? Or do we break down and cry over our feeling of impotence and over our lost youthfulness, becoming bitter and disillusioned? When the subjects are grave - meaning both the people of his or her majesty and the topics they talk about - how can we have the spontaneity to burst out laughing at the absurdity of it? For so much around us is hilariously absurd and tragically ludicrous. We devise systems, big and small, bringing together scraps of castaway ideas and worn out concepts that would make a sculpture of Tinguely, humorously made out of rusty bits of old iron and discarded machines, look pale in comparison, except that our structures and projects completely lack the saving grace of being beautiful in their rusty uselessness.
Alan McCluskey.Share or comment
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