TEACHER: A Carleton professor of anthropology.
STUDENT 1: A pleasant Carleton student.
STUDENT 2/LYLE CASTINET: A less pleasant Carleton student/An astronaut.
EDWARD NAYWORTH: An astronaut.
GHEEO/POTENTIALENERGY: A pair of pommits! One emotional and one wise.
YAMISAY/BRIGHTFUR: A pair of pommits! One eager and one slightly shy.
NOTE: STUDENT 1 begins the play in the audience.
Scene 1: A Carleton classroom.
TEACHER: Well, to start off with, welcome to Anthrolopogy 241: Guiding Principles of Pommit Society. Is everyone in the right place?
TEACHER gives audience time to respond if they wish, and then says:
TEACHER: Of course you are. After all, pommits were the ones who created the saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Any pommit would tell you that if you did not turn out to be where you had gone, then something be would terribly wrong. But here you are, so let’s begin. I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone about the importance that pommit studies have occupied since we opened migration routes with their planet a year and a half ago. Pommits are gaining importance in every aspect of society, from the arts to politics to the natural sciences to education. Understanding their guiding principles is vital to having a healthy and appreciative working relationship with pommits, the sort of relationship I hope many of you are working towards.
Now then: the first and most important lesson to learn about pommits is this: Pommits are SILLIES!!! Yes, they are. Our early exploratory teams sent back this impression from the outset, and the pommits have confirmed it, both individually and through their own anthropological works. Pommits invariably consider themselves to be sillyheaded creatures, and typically once a pommit familiarizes itself with human beings it considers our species to consist of sillies as well. Now, although “silly” is the word chosen by pommit linguists to represent this important concept in their culture, it doesn’t exactly mirror our definition of the word. Let’s have some suggestions from the class—raise your hands and tell me what qualities you generally associate with silliness.
TEACHER takes answers from the audience, nodding and agreeing with each one in a non-committal way.
Eventually, STUDENT 1 raises his/her hand, and when called on, says,
STUDENT 1: Doing the unexpected?
TEACHER: Yes, doing the unexpected is certainly part of it—if you’re with a pommit and you do something completely out of the blue, chances are they’ll cry SILLY!! at you. Another important aspect of pommit silliness is humor, although it’s still debated exactly what kind of humor qualifies. In the very first meeting between pommit and man, astronomer Edward Nayworth asked the pommit Gheeo what Gheeo meant by the word “silly…”
Scene 2: Three years earlier, on the pommit homeworld of Homeplanet.
Exit TEACHER. Enter EDWARD NAYWORTH.
EDWARD (speaking into headset): Caspar, do you read? (Pause.) I’ve just come over the cusp. (Pause.) That’s right. Yes, it’s the same topography. (Pause.) I know, and I’m beginning to see more variety in the growths. More density, too. I’m going on full alert.
While EDWARD listens, enter GHEEO THE POMMIT, who comes cautiously and curiously over to him.
EDWARD: Whoa. Caspar, I’ve got a situation, an ambulatory life form. Am I authorized to—
GHEEO: Hello. Who are You?
EDWARD: Er… I’ll record this and call you back, Caspar. Nayworth out.
EDWARD clicks a button on his headset and stares at Gheeo.
EDWARD: My God.
GHEEO: That is inSane. You are your very Own God?
EDWARD: No, no, I meant to say—
GHEEO: Then you like to worship yourSelf? But why bother?
EDWARD: No, you misunderstood me. My name is Edward Nayworth, I’m an astronaut for the Unified Space Program on the Clethra exploration mission.
GHEEO (gasping): You are a ASTRONAUT? That is aMAZing! You must be very bold!
EDWARD: I do my job. But—who are you?
GHEEO: I am a Creature!
EDWARD: What kind of creature?
GHEEO: Are there more than one kind of creatures? I am the Fun kind of creature.
EDWARD: You are? Well, I’m glad to hear that. So can I assume you don’t mean to hurt me?
GHEEO (shocked): Hurt you? That would be Cruel!! I shall not be cruel.
EDWARD: Excellent! What I meant to ask was, what species do you belong to?
GHEEO: What is a species.
EDWARD: It… it’s what kind of creature—well, it’s a group of creatures that can interbreed to produce viable offspring.
GHEEO: You mean you do want to know Whom I will interBreed with? Is that not a most Personal Question?
EDWARD: I don’t need to know whom… I just meant… is there a name for creatures of your kind. You know…with bodies like yours.
GHEEO: Yes, all such creatures are called pommits. I am a Pommit! Hooray!
EDWARD: A pommit! May I ask how you know my language? Have you been studying radio broadcasts?
GHEEO: I think maybe. Maybe it is just a lucky guess. I was told how to speak this language by my relation Thickee. It is a fun language so I speak it all the time.
EDWARD: Really? Are there a lot of pommits who speak this language?
GHEEO: If there are that is terrific! I do like this language! But since I have told you what kind of thing am I, perhaps You should tell me what kind of thing are You.
EDWARD: I’m a human being.
GHEEO (in astonishment): You are a Human? That is Wonderful! I do Like humans.
EDWARD: Have you ever met one of us before?
GHEEO: No, but I did hear about you. I did hear that you are all SILLIES!
EDWARD: Sillies? What are you talking about?
GHEEO: You are all so silly.
EDWARD: What do you mean by “silly”?
GHEEO: I mean that you do do funny stuff.
EDWARD: Such as?
GHEEO: Such as you did make a lot of little fruit candies and put them in a box and called them JujiFruits. I think that is silly.
EDWARD: Why is that silly?
GHEEO: Because it is better to eat fruit candies when they are not in a box. And because they were already called fruit candies so there is no point to call them JujiFruits. And because JujiFruits is a silly name because Juji does not mean anything much at all.
EDWARD: Did you learn about JujiFruits from a TV commercial?
GHEEO: I am not sure, but I have got some right here. (Takes out a box of JujiFruits and offers them to EDWARD.) They are for you, as a present.
EDWARD: That’s very kind of you. But I don’t know whether to be offended at being called silly.
GHEEO: Offended?! Why would you be offended?! It is a grand thing to be silly.
EDWARD: I thought it means that our heads aren’t screwed on straight.
GHEEO: What?? That is silly! Your head is not screwed at All, sillyhead.
EDWARD: I meant it as a figure of speech.
GHEEO: Oh I see. That is a silly figure. But think about this: if you are silly and your head is not screwed straightly, then how is it that you still do ‘xist? Your kind of animal should have died Long ago. The only way you could not have died long ago is if you are Super! And therefore, if you are a silly creature then you must Also be Super! And That is why it is a Grand thing to be Silly.
EDWARD: I think I ought to take that as a compliment.
GHEEO: Yes, that is a good idea.
EDWARD: What do you call yourself, by the way? And what do you call your planet?
GHEEO: MY name is GHEeo, and this planet is called Homeplanet. That is because it is our home.
EDWARD: That’s a surprisingly good reason.
GHEEO: Thank you. Have you come to visit us?
EDWARD: I suppose so. I have to make a report to my ship, though, before I do anything else.
GHEEO: Then you should do that. I will go away now and see you later, silly human.
EDWARD: Excellent; I’ll be right here.
Exit GHEEO. EDWARD stands still for a few moments, and then leaves stage.
Scene 3: Three years later, in a Carleton dining hall.
Enter STUDENTS, talking.
STUDENT 2: But seriously, did you ever even imagine that Susan would get together with Jacob? I mean, especially after that thing at the broomball game.
STUDENT 1: I don’t know… I thought she wasn’t interested in having a relationship at all until she got done with her geo study. She kept telling me it was taking up all her time.
They sit down.
STUDENT 2: I just hope she doesn’t start brushing him off when the final paper comes due or something. I mean, I feel sorry for Jacob. He’s been having such a rough year already, and this could be a major disappointment to him if it doesn’t work out.
STUDENT 1: I’m thinking it’s more when it doesn’t work out.
STUDENT 2: Yeah, probably.
Enter YAMISAY on all fours, who crawls over to the STUDENTS and sits down next to them.
STUDENT 2: Um… hi.
STUDENT 1: Hi! It’s Yamisay, right?
YAMISAY: What is Yamisay? The only thing that is Yamisay is my name is Yamisay!
STUDENT 2: Uh… right.
STUDENT 1: Hey, don’t be rude. How’s it going being the first pommit student at Carleton?
YAMISAY: It would be fine if there were some other pommits here. But I am not bad. I have been learning some things about Calculus, and about Earth History, and about Drama!
STUDENT 2: Oh god, you’re in a drama class?
YAMISAY: Yes! It is a fun class. I get to preTend to be all Sorts of things!
STUDENT 1: Ah! Yes, from what I’ve learned about pommits I’d think you’d like that. For example?
YAMISAY: For example I can pretend to be a real estate mogul, or a sad person, or even Both At The Same Time! It is exCiting!
STUDENT 2: Well, that’s good, I guess. But tell me this: why did you even decide to go to college?
YAMISAY: I did decide to come here because it did look exCiting, as I said. What about you, silly?
STUDENT 2: Hey—don’t call me silly. I’m in college to get a chem degree. To get a good job right away, so I can hopefully get my own laboratory before I’m forty. Does that make sense to you?
YAMISAY: You are doing one thing to do another to do another to do another. That is silly.
STUDENT 2: Why exactly is it silly?
YAMISAY: Why do you not just do a thing? It sounds like most of the things you do are just so you can do another thing. There is more to life than doing another thing.
STUDENT 2: I don’t get what you’re saying, and I think you don’t understand.
STUDENT 1: Let it go, all right? I think Yamisay has a point.
YAMISAY: What about you, other silly? Why are You in college?
STUDENT 1: I don’t know if I have a good reason… it’s just the next stage in growing up, I guess.
YAMISAY: But you are already grown up. You are as tall as an ordinary human beast.
STUDENT 2: Human beast?
STUDENT 1: Well, I mean growing up culturally. I’m only twenty.
STUDENT 2: Did you just say “human beast”?
YAMISAY: Yes, silly! You are a human beast, and I think that is funny.
STUDENT 2: Why do you call humans beasts?
YAMISAY: Because you are living things and you do take twenty years to grow up and you have got eyes in the front of your faces, like hunting beasts, and you do eat most anything. You are somewhat omnivorous. And you do rule the world.
STUDENT 2: And that makes us beasts?
YAMISAY: Do not be angry. I do like beasts! Beasts are fun!
STUDENT 1: I think you sound like a lot of fun, Yamisay.
YAMISAY: Reeeally? That is most likely because I do move around. All the most fun things do move around. It is good to be a living thing.
STUDENT 1: Do you think so?
YAMISAY: Of course it is! I do Love to be alive. Every week I do call my parents and say Thank you for creating me, and they say You are Welcome, silly thing. Is it not clear that it is good to be a living thing?
Scene 4: The classroom.
Exit STUDENT 2 and YAMISAY. Enter TEACHER.
TEACHER: And that’s why the favorite sport of pommits is miniature golf.
Any other questions from the reading?
STUDENT 1: I have a question that’s not exactly from the reading—it’s from talking to Yamisay, the pommit student here at Carleton.
TEACHER: Oh, excellent! Sure, ask away.
STUDENT 1: How do pommits tend to treat the ultimate questions? You know, the purpose of life, the origin of the universe, that sort of thing?
TEACHER: I’m glad you asked. It wasn’t long after contact was made with the pommits that the first human team on Homeplanet arranged a meeting with two of the locally revered elders to discuss just that…
Scene 5: Nearly three years earlier.
Exit STUDENT 1 and TEACHER. Enter BRIGHTFUR and POTENTIALENERGY,
played by the same actors as YAMISAY and GHEEO, in whatever silly way they
BRIGHTFUR: Do you think that they will ask us a lot of questions?
POTENTIAL: I think so. They said that they would. I hope I know all of the answers.
BRIGHTFUR: What if you do not?
POTENTIAL: Then hopefully You do know the answers. If not, then they will be sadder than they were before.
BRIGHTFUR: That would be a shame.
Enter EDWARD NAYWORTH followed by LYLE CASTINET, played by the same actor as STUDENT 2.
EDWARD: Good morning! I’d like to introduce my colleague, Lyle Castinet, our anthropological and religious specialist.
LYLE: Pleased to meet you.
BRIGHTFUR: You did not meet us yet, silly.
POTENTIAL: I too am pleased to meet you. Please ignore my friend Brightfur because (he/she) is chronically silly.
BRIGHTFUR: No, do Not ignore me!
LYLE: I don’t intend to ignore anybody. I pay attention to everything. It’s my job.
POTENTIAL: Then that is fine.
EDWARD: You said your friend’s name is Brightfur now? I thought it was Hagomoff.
BRIGHTFUR: We did change our names in honor of our visitors.
POTENTIAL: We pommits like your human language so we will all use it from now on. We have taken names that we think are fun. Brightfur thinks his fur is bright (and I think he is probably right) so he is called Brightfur. My name is now PotentialEnergy because I read a book on human physics and I thought that the idea of potential energy is funny. Especially because it was obviously just made up in order to make the Law of Conservation of Energy work. I like human physics. If there is a law that does not work you simply make up some new thing so that it does work. It is like magic.
BRIGHTFUR: PotentialEnergy does spell (his/her) name with two capital letters, one for the ‘P’ and one for the ‘E’.
LYLE: Fair enough, but I should tell you that isn’t standard practice.
POTENTIAL: Of course it is, silly! “JujiFruit” has a capital ‘J’ and a capital ‘F’. Am I no better than JujiFruit?
EDWARD: Let’s just ask the questions, Lyle.
LYLE: Sure thing. First question: do pommits share any sort of religious beliefs?
POTENTIAL: I think so all the Time. If a pommit does come up with a religious belief it will usually share it with everyone it meets. We pommits like to share what we think of.
LYLE: All right, but do you mostly share what it is you actually believe in, or do you all believe different things when it comes to religion?
POTENTIAL: I think the definition of religion is what a person believes in most deeply as more important than any other thing. I do tend to believe most deeply in different things as my time passes. Right now I do believe deeply in examining your clothing because it is so funny-looking. At other times I do believe in relaxing and being as nature meant me to be. Sometimes though I feel like nature is silly and I do spurn it somewhat.
LYLE: Then you have few constant beliefs?
POTENTIAL: I have plenty of constant beliefs but none is most important all the time.
LYLE: Do most pommits feel the same way?
POTENTIAL: I do not know; you would have to ask them.
LYLE: Do pommits believe in a supernatural power that created the universe?
BRIGHTFUR: What is supernatural?
LYLE: It means… beyond the natural.
BRIGHTFUR: And what is natural?
LYLE: It’s…it’s the basic state of things. Pristine and…untouched.
BRIGHTFUR: Untouched by anyone?
LYLE: By… you know, intelligent creatures. Like you and me.
BRIGHTFUR: But then what you are asking is whether the universe was created by someone intelligent or someone stupid.
EDWARD: I don’t think that’s what he meant.
POTENTIAL: That is an interesting question. I think that it is not really so meaningful. What is intelligent or stupid to do does depend on what the circumstances are. If there are no circumstances, then there is no such thing as smart or stupid. Therefore if someone did create the universe then they were neither smart nor stupid because there was no universe at all before they created it.
BRIGHTFUR: That is silly.
POTENTIAL: You are silly.
LYLE: Please! Let me put it this way: do you believe that somebody created the universe?
POTENTIAL: I do not know. That would be a lot of work.
BRIGHTFUR: Where would they get it?
POTENTIAL: There would be nowhere to get it. I think that probably it was always here.
BRIGHTFUL: Yes, that does make more sense.
LYLE: Where do you believe pommits came from?
POTENTIAL: It is my opinion that pommits probably did just happen.
EDWARD: Just happen? You mean, you were spontaneously generated?
POTENTIAL: Either that or more likely we just fell into place.
BRIGHTFUR: We did evolve.
LYLE: You don’t seem to be in agreement.
POTENTIAL: I do not think it matters so much.
LYLE: Interesting. Do you have any beliefs about the purpose of life?
POTENTIAL: Yes! Life is good for doing stuff. If you would like to eat a sausage, for example, it is best to do it when you are alive. Also if you want to meet somebody you should do it when you are alive, or to swim across a river or invent a kind of doorknob. Now that I think of it it is probably best to do everything while you are alive. It would be very hard if you were unalive.
BRIGHTFUR: That is to say dead.
POTENTIAL: Or not born yet.
BRIGHTFUR: In which case you probably would not want to do anything anyway.
POTENTIAL: Yes, that is true! And that is the beauty of life!
LYLE: Can you be more clear? What is the beauty of life?
POTENTIAL: The beauty is that only living things can do things, but only living things want to do things anyway. So there is no boredom in being dead and wanting to do things but you cannot.
BRIGHTFUR: I like being alive.
EDWARD: Why do you like being alive?
BRIGHTFUR: Because alive things are made so that they like to be alive! And I am an Alive Thing!
POTENTIAL: That is a simple and true answer.
LYLE: Very good… I just have one more question. What is it about something that makes it… “silly”?
POTENTIAL: That is a hard question. I do not know exactly. So many things are silly.
LYLE: Is a bird silly?
POTENTIAL: A bird is silly because it does fly. There is a law of gravity to keep things from flying but a bird does not care and it flies anyway. That is silly.
BRIGHTFUR: Also they have silly beaks.
LYLE: Is a plant silly?
BRIGHTFUR: A plant is not silly unless it has lots of leaves all over.
POTENTIAL: A plant is silly because it does just sit there and grow, without doing anything. Why does it bother to be alive? It has no reason and yet it does anyway.
BRIGHTFUR: I had not thought of that. You are right; a plant is silly.
LYLE: Are the stars in the night sky silly?
POTENTIAL: The stars are quite silly! They are all full of potential energy, you see. They keep trying to fall together through gravity, but then their nuclei keep exploding and they get blown farther apart again. I look at the stars and I laugh for they are so silly.
LYLE: Can you think of anything at all that is not silly in some way?
BRIGHTFUR: A rock is not silly.
POTENTIAL: No, a rock is not silly. (Pause.) Except in that it has no business not to be silly when so many other things are. It is fun to be silly, my human friends. You are silly and so am I and we all know the joys of silliness. Why is a rock not silly?
BRIGHTFUR: Yes, that is very silly of it.
Enter TEACHER and STUDENT 1.
TEACHER: And so, many writers have suggested that silliness is the most central and most potent concept in the pommit worldview. What do you think silliness is to the pommits?
STUDENT 1: I think…I think that maybe for a pommit to say that something is silly…is just to say that they find it fascinating. And they find all things fascinating.
TEACHER: More than fascinating! Wondrous!
STUDENT 1: Yes, wondrous! The pommits find all things wondrous!
TEACHER: Exactly. And what do you think of that?
STUDENT 1 (laughs): Well… I find it rather silly of them.
TEACHER: Just what I was thinking.