Born of frustration, wit and life out of time in a world gone mad with self-absorption and incongruity. The progeny of a humor opinion piece, “… but never mind all that”, is also the signature refrain that joins seemingly disjointed streams of consciousness together as rivers on their way to some cosmic ocean as it were. Sylvia Shawcross is that proverbial voice crying out in the wilderness, pointing the way toward common sense, away from the head scratching confusion that so often makes our world. Cutting through contradiction and condescension of the powers that be in a series of vignettes which amount to mini philosophical treatises, the reader is taken outside the box. Indeed, the reader is invited to entertain the possibility that there may not be any box at all. Whether it’s in deciphering the goobledygook of the latest community group’s ten-year anniversary report, or understanding that your systems and functions need to be reprogrammed to comply with ten-digit dialing. Not to be out done by the local government, elected by popular acclaim because no one gave a damn, and their edicts on how many pet hamsters can be permitted on any given property, or how many trees of a designated trunk circumference can be cut while maintaining the pristine beauty of the local arboreal environment. It’s a pristine green beauty easily affected by such unsightly structures as temporary car shelters left standing after the spring thaw, but not by the great big blue recycling bins on wheels provided free of charge after the latest tax increase. Lets not forget about traffic calming coercion and suggested neighborly spying on those who do not tow the line. Not to mention the connections between Stephen Harper and Adolph Hitler, Einstein’s theory of relativity and corporate time management, the Middle East and global warming, or the seal hunt, skin beauty and the execution of Chinese prisoners.
And if it’s not the powers that be that provide grist for Shawcross’ mill, it’s the sands of time, identifying with all of us who see more time behind us than that which remains in front. And with age comes the awareness of the increasing speed of life in general and the ever increasing myriad of hi-tech blitherbloos on the market replacing obsolete ones in ever quicker succession, as any call to the local blitherbloo box store will illustrate. The upbeat voice on the phone says, “how may I redirect your call?” And any request you may have is met with the response, “No problem!”, followed by endless commercials as you wait. Then there are the positive thinkers, perpetual youth in spandex and the endless possibilities of choice at the local coffee boutique. Choice is good, so more choice has got to be better, n’est pas. Then there is the mad dash to god knows what, with people honking because you don’t leap into the intersection the nanosecond the light changes, tailgating, cutting off, and ever popular high beams.
It’s been said that there is wisdom in madness, or maybe madness in wisdom. It may well be only a function of perception in that what is wise to one is only perceived as madness by another and what is madness to one is only perceived as wisdom. Perception may be reality, but is reality only perception? Are there many truths or is there somewhere underlying the confusion an absolute? The function of humor at the very least is to shock one out of that assumption of understanding, to unexpectedly force one to examine preconceived notions, to shake up the complacency borne of arrogance’s, self-absorption and a need for security, to boldly go where no man has gone before. But Star Trek aside, humor shocks by juxtaposing elements that seem on the surface to be in opposition, but are dialectic. It’s the shock value, the ah-ha moment, proposing something at variance yet preserving plausibility that cajoles the characters and plots of everyday life and thereby reveals something hitherto unseen. Sometimes, for Shawcross it’s just a rant, drawing one’s attention to look for truth here and not only where the light is good. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, or something like that.
1 January 2007