“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”
Archetypically, nonsense can be thought of as one of the Trickster’s devices. The Trickster, as you may know, manifests mythically in dozens of cultures around the world. In Jungian terms the trickster is an archetype common to all humans, which dwells in the depths of the collective unconscious and exists to heal the psyche and keep it whole by keeping it honest and refusing to allow things to fester in the dark that ought to be brought into the light.
Trickster often shows up in stories as an animal. Roughly speaking, he comes as Coyote to the southwestern Native American tribes and Raven to those in the northwest. Rabbit or Hare is another contender and in the southern United States he’s joined by his cousin Br’er Rabbit out of Africa; some say Br’er Rabbit is a variation of Anansi the trickster Spider of African mythology. In South America we find Turtle or Tortoise playing tricks, and in Europe Reynard the Fox takes on that role. Tanuki, the Raccoon Dog, is Japan’s shape-shifting prankster.
The Trickster may be human with a touch of other worldly talent such as Jack of the Appalachian Jack stories, John the Conqueror of African American fame or Maui in Hawaii. He may be a god like Hermes, Loki, Pan or Eshu.
He is a mischievous, street smart, cunning and occasionally wise character, who delights in rude, raucous, anti-social behavior and practical jokes. He is often greedy, lazy and arrogant. The Trickster loves to play tricks on folks who refuse to show up and pay attention to their lives; on the pompous and the pedantic; on ones who take pleasure in unwise or cruel use of power – in short on anyone who needs a hard swift kick-in-the-butt to humble them or get their attention.
Traditionally the Trickster is male, but if you look closely at the heroines in fairy tales and myth they often use their wiles or the wits of their sisters, fairy mothers and godmothers to win the day. Male heroes too, are often helped out with a trick or two provided by a handy crone or girlfriend. As the playing field evens out and women finally emerge out of history’s shadow we find lots more female Tricksters emerging. Lady Gaga comes to mind immediately. She is smart, outrageous and completely nonsensical. Like any good Trickster, she is a shape-shifter par excellence, using masks, make-up, body paint, feathers and furbelows , leather and lace to change her appearance to something startlingly and other-worldly. Her aim is to drop our jaws and blow the doors of our minds wide open. As Trickster she turns our assumptions upside down and tumbles them out of the box of preconception.
This is exactly what nonsense does, it opens windows between our conscious minds and the great vast roiling sea of the unconscious. Our minds, especially the egoic part, like to keep those windows slammed shut, opening them only to stuff another unwelcome thought, idea, memory or association out of sight. The Trickster knows we could benefit by looking at some of the stuffing, recovering a lost talent, or simply catching up with our feelings. To that end it distracts us with nonsense, silly tricks and flashy colors, to make us giggle and flirt and forget to latch the latches and slam the shutters shut. While we are distracted, new things are fluttering, slipping and sliding through the cracks, called forth by symbols and meanings hidden in the nonsense, disguised as frippery.