Michael T. Dolan

Writings, Reflections, and Commentaries

Join the Madness of Mad Hatter Day

Posted on | October 6, 2006 | No Comments

“Let your silliness triumph all day long” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (October 6, 2006).

Thanks to the devil that is marketing, there is now a day, week and month for everything. Companies and organizations looking to push a product, agenda or cause simply hijack a moment in time, label it for their advantage, and hope for free publicity.

Take Squirrel Appreciation Week, which ends tomorrow. Probably started by a lobby of self-righteous gray squirrels hoping for free food, it calls us to rethink how we view the frisky little creatures – not as bird-feeder burglars, but as acrobatic rodents who have the same right to a handout of Rice Krispies that we so willingly provide to the visiting cardinal or finch. Such injustice must not continue!

Coincidently, October is also National Sarcastics Awareness Month – the title itself seems a bit redundant.

The absurdity of it all is brought to light today, Oct. 6 or 10/6: Mad Hatter Day.

It was inspired by a slip of paper reading, “In this style 10/6,” tucked into the Mad Hatter’s top hat in John Tenniel’s illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Mad Hatter Day not only calls into question what we normally pretend is natural and normal, but it also urges us to do the things that we usually would see as absurd.

Started in the mid-1980s, Mad Hatter Day makes us stop and think about our day-to-day lives and gives us an excuse to disrupt them.

For example, most scholars believe the Mad Hatter’s 10/6 refers to the cost of his hat – 10 shillings sixpence. In the spirit of the day, though, I believe both Carroll and Tenniel would find such interpretation and scholarly debates absurdly bizarre. They would probably ignore such discussion and proceed with a celebration of Mad Hatter Day.

As part of the festivities, let us beget and redefine silliness. Now, habitual creatures who value normalcy might find this concept hard to grasp, so here’s a little help:

Acts of Silliness: sitting behind a desk in front of a computer screen for 10 hours a day; walking down the sidewalk and not greeting the person walking the other way; raking fallen leaves and sending them to decompose in neatly bundled bags; sitting in a traffic jam both morning and night, day after day; watching reality television; using pillow shams to beautify the pillows on your bed during the day; working at a job you hate; going to a gym to jog in place on a treadmill; never taking time to do what you love, be it painting, reading, or hiking.

OK, now that you have the idea, let us move on to:

Acts of Normalcy: camping in your backyard; skipping through the neighborhood for exercise; swinging at the playground; flying a kite; howling at the moon; playing in the rain; riding a unicycle; building a treehouse; dancing; stargazing; going for a hike at night; writing a letter to a deceased loved one; pursuing your passions; walking up the down escalator; and so on.

To achieve such Acts of Silliness and Acts of Normalcy, adults may want to follow the example of our children, who seem to have no trouble understanding the spirit of Mad Hatter Day.

For the sad lot of us who have grown up, however, there is a latent fear of Acts of Normalcy. It will take courage, but I urge you to embrace Mad Hatter Day in all its silliness. Perhaps it can be our own personal New Year’s Day – a time when we resolve to discard the silliness that consumes our lives and vow to participate in life in the ways it was meant to be lived.

Still feeling timid? Don’t be shy, because tonight you can chalk up so-called silliness to the full moon

So, go ahead – give a squirrel a hug.

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