I remember wondering right after 9/11 if there would ever be reason to laugh again. I knew the world had changed in a profound way and that our idea of normal, especially in the United States, would never be the same again.
A week later, David Letterman went back on the air as the first late night celebrity to face the country, wondering what to do with the sack of gags he’d spent most of his life tossing out to his audience. This night however, he chucked the jokes behind him, and simply spoke from the heart. He broke down before the cameras, before the world, and we cried with him.
Then he said, “There is only one requirement for us; that is to be courageous, because courage defines us better than any other characteristic we have.”
He went on to site Mayor Rudolf Giuliani as the real hero in terms of public leadership, but for me, Letterman said what I needed to hear most at that time.
Now, I wake up and think, “I don’t want to live in a world where we have to see David Letterman cry.”
That sounds like a Far Side cartoon–some alternate universe where insects speak and use us as props for their silly sitcoms.
All I know, is the last thing I felt compelled to do after 9/11 was be creative. All of the American pie we reveled in seemed to have said goodbye. And that contrary voice of medieval times was on my shoulder saying: art is frivolous , extravagant, self-indulgent and therefore ancillary, needless–especially in times of crisis!
But I don’t believe we were meant to live in a world of terror; or one without laughter or lascivious stimulation of all our senses–without art. Yes, courage defines our character during our toughest times, but art encapsulates it and extols its virtues for generations to remember. When we cease to have reason to laugh, to live our dreams–to create art–then truly a D-day is soon to follow.