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Ad Absurdum

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Absurdity and eccentricity make life worth living. They are the weird quirks unique to a human person, experience or event. Mardi Gras is almost here; there will be music, dancing and of course, the parties. It is a holiday based around floats, beads, costumes and booze. What could be more ridiculous and beautiful at the same time? Mardi Gras captures the lust for life that should possess us all, from time to time of course. This rings particularly true this year at Mardi Gras. New Orleans has been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and is in the process of rebuilding one of America’s most beautiful cities from a flooded wasteland. Yet the party will go on, and it will be one incredible party.

The concept of the party is one of the greatest human inventions. The party is the perfect example of the absurd, which is why people instinctively refer to a good party as “ridiculous.” To understand the party is to understand the absurd. Reveling is a conscious decision to forget about the cares of life and enjoy the fact that, despite it all, we are alive and have the ability to realize happiness, if but for a moment at a time. It is the liberation that spices the dish of life. Social conventions are scattered as ashes upon the sea of exuberance. Pretension and reserve wither away, and a visceral experience rises from their fetid corpses. At least that is what happens at a good party; bad parties do have their share of people too self-important to let go of their prejudices, pride or pretension. To each their own, but who would want to go to some event inspired by the Victorian era or those wretched Puritans, who were nothing but deleterious for this country?

Music is the most crucial element to any party. It uplifts the spirit and brings people together. Music is not by nature absurd, but at a party is often used as an instrument thereof. The spontaneous karaoke that occurs invariably at any party is often one of the more enjoyable experiences of the night. Music also provides the energy and raw power to proffer an environment where people feel free to let go and bring out their inner nature. The Rolling Stones said it best on “Rocks Off” from their “Exile On Main Street” album, when Mick Jagger snarls, “The sunshine bores the daylights out of me.” Despite being a dedicated sun-worshipper, it’s the night where the real excitement comes.

Dancing is a noble hobby that is present within the party. Taken objectively, the decision to gyrate the body in generally absurd motions is a ridiculous concept. Yet put to music, and most importantly enthusiasm, it becomes a wonderful experience. Yes, many of us, especially this writer, often look far more than comical when attempting to dance. The act of the dance allows one to express himself or herself, and different dances can convey the wide range of human emotions – e.g. the tango is clearly the dance of fire and passion, to “hippy dance” to the Grateful Dead is to know freedom and to rock out to Led Zeppelin is to understand power and freedom.

Just have enough enthusiasm and confidence, and dancing becomes a sublime experience. Absurdity is transformed into beauty; the act of dancing confirms the duality of our existence. Actions of ethical neutrality merely “are” until people assign categorizations to them. Nothing is inherently absurd if taken apart from the context of people’s judgments. When one learns to love the absurd, he or she is helping to peel away the mists of his or her own perceptions. These perceptions of otherness are what make people feel uncomfortable or awkward.

The human is an absurd creature by nature, yet his desire to live as a social creature causes him to fall into self-denial. Society has a clear interest in melding its limbs into a cohesive unit that can act in concert. When one no longer denies, conforms or hides, he experiences liberation. Since all people, except hermits, live within societies, absurdity must of course be balanced by a general affability and ability to cooperate with others. The absurd and the social are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are complementary and tend to produce rather colorful characters. Ultimately, it is these characters that make up the life of a fest and indeed make life festive. People are the most important ingredient to any situation. So go forth and embrace that which is wild, ridiculous and embodied within Mardi Gras.

Ian Ronderos is a senior majoring in the Classics with a supplementary major in Ancient Greek and Roman Civilizations. Having retired from the College Republicans and adopted independent politics, he has entered the private life of peaceful contemplation. He can be contacted at irondero@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.