The idea of “nonsense” is often misunderstood—it’s mistaken for stupidity and incompetency, and people dismiss it in favor of logic and common sense (understandably so). But if “sense” is the recognition of all of the natural, proper affairs of daily life, then “nonsense” must be something more than mere gibberish—it is the recognition of all the incongruities and absurdities, the heart of imagination and genius.
The beautiful thing about nonsense is that while it goes against our well-intentioned logic, it manages to provide a deeper sense of harmony into who we are (because it derives from imagination, it exposes the unspeakable). It’s mesmerizing when someone takes the idea of nonsense and flings their whole heart and soul into exploring it—say, Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear. Take this limerick of Lear’s:
There was an Old man who screamed out
Whenever they knocked him about;
So they took off his boots,
And fed him with fruits,
And continued to knock him about.
There’s nothing really logical about this—how do you explain the fruits? the knocking about?—but there is a sense of simplicity and truthfulness, in its own strange way. Lear is presenting what comes to mind without any real filters or lenses; in other words, this limerick is almost as honest as poetry can be.
It’s especially refreshing to return to nonsense after a day’s worth of deep pondering and contemplation—to be able to read something like this and simply say, “what the heck?”