by Joe Buonfiglio
“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.”
This quotation is attributed to Japanese film director, producer, screenwriter and editor Akira Kurosawa (March 23, 1910 – September 6, 1998). Responsible for such influential and classic films as Seven Samurai (1954), Yojimbo (1961) and the Macbeth-based Throne of Blood (1957), Kurosawa is regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in cinematic history. Yet this quote does not reflect his impressive, grand achievements, but is a distillation of a broad concept into absolute simplicity. This modest quote has always given me comfort.
It’s as if watching a Slinky mechanically “walk” end-over-end down a flight of stairs, and then inexplicably stop. After your initial knee-jerk reaction of agitation, an “aaaaaaaaah” moment overcomes you. Yes. Yes. This is okay. The universe may not like this, but it will accept it. I don’t have a plastic bag in which to remove my dog’s surprise indiscretion on the mayor’s front lawn, officer, but I’m sure nature will let it slide this time.
I have always derived a relative composure — experienced calm’s embrace — from Kurosawa’s words. They made me realize that you are understood; you can be forgiven for your forays into irrationality. Yes, sure, you just emitted an ill-timed squeaker-fart at the precise instant of momentary silence when the tenor finishes belting out the dramatic finish to La donna è mobile, the Duke’s aria in Verdi’s Rigoletto. And yes, the queen was in her loge right at the time. And yes, unfortunately, that private theatre box exclusively reserved for Her Majesty was located directly above you. Nevertheless, while your date stormed out bursting into tears of shame and humiliation, the universe understands. The protocol forces of the cosmos will adapt to your ribald interruption of the natural order of things. Though polite society will try to string you up by your genitalia, the cosmos will find a home for you (albeit in the dark recesses of its spiritual anus).
Just because you are unique, does not mean you are insane.
Just because you walk to the beat of a different drummer, does not mean you dance to the music of a serial killers’ ice cream truck.
Just because you can’t resist a good preshow all-you-can-eat taco buffet at your favorite whiskey bar, does not mean public flatulence should be declared your modus operandi.
Okay, maybe that last one is a bad example.
The fact of the antimatter is that you should chill about all this; the Deep Black of Forever gets it.
“What the fuck?!” you say.
I retort “Fuck the what. And the who. And the where, how and why.”
If you were to speak with those who know me at this moment, they’d probably tell you that I’m just fucking with you. It’s kind of like when Jack Nicholson’s Joker in the 1989 Batman film says, “You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” There’s no reason behind it; no logic in play. He’s just messin’ with your head.
That’s what people who know me will tell you I’m doing: just fucking with you.
However, those who know me best will tell you it’s more than that. As an Absurdist purist — as a believer in the randomly chaotic nature of the universe — it is my futile attempt within the senseless mayhem of existence to reach out and grasp what might be just one, lone thread of order swaying in the wind of collective psychosis.
The world is mad.
Only the mad are sane.
I can live with that.
And then it happened. My semblance of order within my fragile sensibilities, teetering on the brink of the cerebral forever lost, came crashing down all thanks to my beloved progeny and dinner leftovers.
See, last night my family had pot pie for dinner. And while not the most wholesome of comestible options from a nutritional standpoint, it occasionally serves a necessary purpose within the ridiculous realm of scheduling two working adults and one active teenager. This in and of itself is not what led me to my existential crisis, however. It was this sentence uttered by my son the next morning that sent me into a philosophic plunge:
“Dad, can I have the leftover pot pie for breakfast?”
What … the … FUCK?! Pot pie? Pot pie for breakfast? Did I awake into some alternate reality that is the stuff of science fiction?
“No,” I calmly replied even though my soul was screaming in abject turmoil.
“Why not?” he queried with a perplexed expression on his face that masked he had immediately and cleverly recognized a weakness in my resolve.
“Because, well, because you just can’t, that’s why?”
“That’s not an answer.”
“You can have cereal or an English muffin or eggs or a bagel or pancakes— Hell, I’ll even make you French toast. Those are breakfast things. You eat breakfast things for breakfast. The leftover pot pie you can have for lunch if you want.”
“Dad, I don’t understand why it makes a difference if I eat the pot pie for lunch or have it for breakfa—”
“Look, goddamn it, I can’t in good conscience give you pot pie for breakfast, okay?! What kind of parent would that make me? Hey, we had sushi a couple nights ago. Maybe you’d like it if I gave you the leftover sushi for breakfast, huh? How about that? You want the freakin’ sushi for breakfast?!”
“Yeah. That’d be great. Thanks.”
As my boy walked off to engage in his ritualistic “morning constitutional” activity, I collapsed to the kitchen floor and started mumbling something about wanting the ghost of Kurosawa to kiss my ass right about now.
Perhaps Absurdism does not go far enough. I may have to consider that the Nihilists have it right.
Madness or sanity? I haven’t the slightest idea, Mr. Kurosawa. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have tickets to the opera tonight; these pot pies and tacos aren’t gonna eat themselves.
© 2015 Joseph P. Buonfiglio All Rights Reserved.