I lived in Egypt from 2008 to 2015. That put me in the country during the 2011 Revolution.
After the Egyptians flexed their collective muscles, others, including the Americans, were inspired to follow suit. (Everyone remembers the Occupy Wall Street movement, right?) Activists squatted in Zuccotti Park just like the Cairenes had done in Tahrir Square. Then the movement metastasized.
Eventually, though, the occupiers dispersed or underwent a metamorphosis. (Energy of that sort never fully disappears.)
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Zuccotti Park and Tahrir Square. And I’ve gained some insights about what happened in those places. For example, I’ve come to see revolution as a metaphor. It is a kind of human flowering that occurs even during a drought. Actually it occurs because there’s a drought. That makes it very ironic.
Revolution is an ending. It is a beginning too.
It can also be seen as an expression of that which can’t be fully expressed.
So I was dining in this Indian restaurant a few days ago. We’d pushed a couple of small tables together as we were a party of seven. Six of us were Americans and the seventh, my wife, was Egyptian. We weren’t drinking alcohol or anything, but the conversation was still silly and random as hell. Many of us giggled and guffawed as the talking occurred. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe there were even a few instances of people chortling. That tells you what kind of evening it was.
At one point, just before the food was brought to the table, Ruthann, a fellow Texan from Dallas, turned to me and said, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, “Let’s talk about obscure celebrities from yesteryear.” That prompted me to respond, “Hey, does anyone know whatever happened to Tiny Tim?”
Of course, Azza, my better half, had no idea who this miniscule person was. One other individual, a child of twelve, was equally in the dark. Everyone else immediately fell silent. You could literally hear cogs turning in heads as people thought about my question.
I was the first person to break the silence. I said, “Tiny Tim is actually an interesting study. He’s a study in how far an untalented person can go in show business.”
“It wasn’t necessarily that he lacked talent,” Lori retorted, “It was just that he had the right sort of talent for the 1960s.”
“Right,” said Ruthann. “Weirdness was really in in the 60s, so he had what people wanted.”
I’ve embedded a video so you see an example of what Mr. Tim provided to the public during his heyday.
Now, days later, I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Tiny Tim. In addition to the clip I included, I’ve looked at a zillion videos of him performing and being interviewed. I even called several teaching colleagues into my office, showed them a few of the things I watched, and asked them to respond, taking careful notes as they spoke. Like I said, I’ve been a bit obsessed recently.
Perhaps that was his ultimate goal (and genius?) as a performer? To create a persona and a sound we couldn’t turn away from and couldn’t get enough of?