Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Friday, January 01, 2010

Humour, Comedy and Life

A good laugh, Chesterton argued, can be a sign of taking something seriously. The seriousness of a moment provides the context that makes for comedy. It is the jarring contradiction.

Comedy is the voice of the powerless with intelligence.
Wit makes its own welcome, and levels all distinctions. No dignity, no learning, no force of character, can make any stand against good wit. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882), Letters and Social Aims: The Comic, 1876

Humor is our way of defending ourselves from life's absurdities by thinking absurdly about them.
Lewis Mumford (1895 - 1990)

What humour is and what social function it serves is the substance of many theories. However, I found it interesting that humour is also sometimes described as an ingredient in spiritual life.

"Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious." Peter Ustinov (1921 - 2004)  "Humor is also a way of saying something serious." T. S. Eliot (1888 - 1965) "They were not the same eyes with which he had last looked out at this particular scene, and the brain which interpreted the images the eyes resolved was not the same brain. There had been no surgery involved, just the continual wrenching of experience."

There is an inherent expectation in humour which is achieved when two different frames of reference are set up and a collision is engineered between them. "... humour occurs when the brain recognizes a pattern that surprises it, and that recognition of this sort is rewarded with the experience of the humorous response, an element of which is broadcast as laughter." “The laugh is by no means to be viewed from the standpoint of humor; its connection with humor is only secondary. It marks the ending [. . .] of a period of suspense, or expectation, all ending which is sharp and secondary” (John Dewey, 558).

"Humor is always based on a modicum of truth. Have you ever heard a joke about a father-in-law?" Dick Clark 
"Humour frequently contains an unexpected, often sudden, shift in perspective." Humour is, like anxieties, tied to anticipation. We wait for the punchline just as we wait for the other shoe to drop. The pattern of life is before everyone, it is when the absurdity of the pattern becomes a stark reality that humour is brought forth. "The Guide is definitive. Reality is frequently inaccurate."

"Quite how Zaphod Beeblebrox arrived at the idea of holding a seance at this point is something he was never quite clear on.

Obviously the subject of death was in the air, but more as something to be avoided than harped upon.
Possibly the horror that Zaphod experienced at the prospect of being reunited with his deceased relatives led on to the thought that they might just feel the same way about him and, what's more, be able to do something about helping to postpone this reunion." HGTTU

What a person accepts as humourous or funny depends on social demographics and varies from person to person. "One doesn't have a sense of humor. It has you." Larry Gelbart Humour links to what is existentially relevant to each individual. Humour is conditional to life experience, attitude, expectation, even faith and belief. "He hoped and prayed that there wasn't an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn't an afterlife."
"Life is tough, and if you have the ability to laugh at it you have the ability to enjoy it.'

Salma Hayek
"It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes."

Dealing with life's perplexities and disillusionments requires, as a healthy coping skill, the ability to distinguish between the monumentally significant and the petty inconsequential as they play out in the realm of the absurdity of life. We have a tendency to place a lot of stock in areas of life which inevitably carry little or no weight in the final analysis of our life. Faith, hope, love and humour provide the key to success in dealing with the storms of our existence. Humour furnishes the outlet, the vent for coping with pain, in essence diffusing situations and memory.


"Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place. Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)





Some claim that humour cannot or should not be explained. Author E.B. White once said, "Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind."

Enjoy a good laugh, smile at a joke, see the absurdity in your life, allow life to pass in front of you, not as an affront to you. We have these fleeting moments, we hold life as in a jar of clay it seems such a waste to fill them with pebbles and stones. Rather be filled with sweet nectar, water for the soul, love of life, faith in God, hope in the eternal Father and understand that God allows us to smile at ourselves and remove the arrogance and pride to see in humility the life we have. Humour is an avenue to humilty, knowledge and a heart for truth.

"Total absence of humor renders life impossible."

Colette (1873 - 1954), Chance Acquaintances, 1952

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