Tuesday, 1 September 2009

And Wuseli, 'Village of the Loonies'

"'They're loonies', I thought to myself. We were as nonplused as the audiences must have been watching us. Maybe it was a form of revenge.

"I looked closer.

"I saw a man dressed up as a monkey, with an orange fez on his head, swinging from the branches of a nearby tree. Monkey-man! He was blowing a policeman's whistle as he swung from the tree. The elders were still shuffling and hooting around, but I noticed that one of them had a long cotton tail dangling between his legs. And if one of them didn't have a horn, he blew on the end of his walking stick, making the sound of the horn just the same. And slowly, very slowly, that village was going wild. And a little millet wine helped; no doubt about it. Blow the roof off. "Not too much now," said Brook, knocking it back. Shuffle, hoot, shuffle, hoot, shuffle, hoot. Everything, everything to the rhythm of the crazy horns."


"And when you returned their sounds, they looked as if they could kiss you. It meant you understood... 'Come on! Come on!' they called us to dance. So we ventured into the circle of dancers, laughing. Shuffle, hoot, shuffle, hoot. Take it easy! they said. Keep the pulse! they said. Then you can hoot! And it went on for hours with the Village of the Loonies, the village who dance in trees, elect a silly Chief, miss their noses with warpaint, fall off horses, collect paper flags and policeman's whistles, make slapstick love, forget the names of their gods, make up new ones every day, forget they exist, forget misery, laugh, laugh at the discovery of themselves, at every limb and waggling tongue - everything is funny, everything.

"The people were wise.

"They understood the wisdom of craziness."

(Conference of the birds, John Heilpern, p216-7)

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