Every year on or around May 1, an unruly group of citizens in Pasadena, California march in a mini extravaganza they call the Doo Dah Parade. Perennial favorites of the occasion are the Marching Precision Brief Case Drill Team (bankers from the area who swing their brief cases in unison), the Newport Beach Dull Men’s Club (businessmen who march in time to the cacophony of the portable leaf blowers) and hundreds of other wild and crazy individuals and groups dressed in assorted and colorful regalia. It’s a unconventional but cheerful affair, both for the participant and parade-goers and good time is had by all.
The Doo Dah Parade began as a counterpoint to the extreme formality and occasional pomposity of the Rose Bowl Parade. Even through the Rose Parade is stunning and sometimes breathtaking, according to those most intimately involved, it cannot be described as “fun.” The Doo Dah parade, however, is an example of the human need to relieve tension and stress and bring our spirits back into healthy balance.
It’s now nearly eight or nine weeks (give or take a day or week—one loses track) since most of us entered the “sheltering in place” or greeting others from the “safe” distance of six feet. It’s been easy to get mired in this distanced life—and if you’ve not been careful it’s been easy to fall into a habitual rut with work, home or even play (like how many puzzles can one finish?) Sooner or later this kind of life leads us to burn out or it’s close relative, terminal boredom.
In his book, Anatomy of An Illness, Norman Cousins tells how he set out to heal himself after being diagnosed with a painful and potentially fatal collagen disease brought on by the malfunction of his adrenal glands. His research into the disease caused him to conclude that the exhaustion that he constantly felt could be causing negative chemical changes leading to his illness. He discovered that through a series of lifestyle changes and particularly, a systematic program to divert himself with laughter, he could decrease his pain. Ten minutes of solid belly laughter while watching Marx Brothers films and Candid Camera (does that date this book research?) brought him two hours of pain free sleep. Eventually his disease went into remission and Cousins spent the rest of his life explaining the many ways attitudes can influence the course of physical disease.
It’s very close to May 1—and as of this writing, there have been lots of efforts to say the that May 1 will be the day that our nation will once again “open up.” That certainly will be something to hope for and expect. But till then, and even afterward, can you accept the fact that difficulty and stress are a part of your everyday life? Can you also realize that our lives deserve at least as much diversion (fun) as stress? We need a Doo Dah Parade of our own occasionally. Having fun is the ability to let go, to let loose of our need for control and to be spontaneous. You’ve probably heard of some folks doing that during this COVID-19 crisis. For example—today my Ford Mustang Club did a parade by the house of a little 11-year-old girl who was having a “distanced birthday.” She was absolutely taken by surprise and laughed with glee as the parade passed her with shouts of “Happy Birthday!” A personal Doo Dah Parade means enjoying something so completely that we totally lose ourselves in some activity, pursuit or person. We become kids again. And afterwards when we do return to our problems or stressors, they may seem less ominous and easier to cope with. Our whole “body-spirit” may become relaxed—changed for the better. The writer of Proverbs put it this way: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” (Prov. 17:22)
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Kent, I grew up with Candid Camera – so thank you for the memory. I appreciated your focus on humor. We need more of it in the midst of all of this.