Thursday, December 30, 2010

Funny You Should Ask

 The concept of funny implies a circumstance of absurdity and potential discomfort directed to some source.  Played out in dramatic terms, the circumstance produces laughter.  The concept of funny brings us into that no-person's land between humor, which is more apt to be existential and dramatic in nature, and comedy, which is physical, but not far enough removed from the existential to preclude a well-placed pie in the face.

You are motivated to these observations and examinations because a friend, who chooses to use the blog pseudonym of The Querulous Squirrel, but whose real name is known to you, considered earlier commentary of yours as funny, to which you replied that Life is funny.

Life is just that, physical and bumptious at times, painful in excess at other times, yet the cure for either or both, to the extent cures are available for events in Life, is a point of view that sees event and circumstance as funny.  One proof you offer in support of this observation is the presence in almost any culture you can think of where there is occasion for someone scrabbling to attain the moral high ground to announce of a particular behavior, remark, or attitude:  "That's not funny."

Such utterers are drawing lines in the sand, representing themselves as arbiters of what produces laughter and, indeed, where laughter is inappropriate.  For openers, laughter appears to have been wired into most of our glorious species, but has become subject to cultural attack by those who have chosen to disconnect a major form of coping with circumstance.  There is also the possibility that those who remind us a particular vision or attitude or conclusion is not funny are in actuality saying, Don't laugh at me.  Do not make fun of me.  Can't you see I am serious?  (As though seriousness is some beau ideal, radiant in its transcendental flourish.)

Funny is odd or ironic, both primary causes of laughter.  A thing unlike conventional things is funny.  Ironic is opposition borne home; it is a tickle on the ribs of Fate, it is that magnificent cliche of the barn door being locked after it should have been; it is also an awareness that when one's ducks are all in a row, one bullet can have a fatal effect on any number of them.

Funny is Whose ox is being gored?  Funny if it is not your ox.

How many times have you been admonished, told, ordered to be serious?  Is there a correlation between those times and the behavior that evoked such admonitions.

Most humorous things may be reduced to such serious matters as survival, ethics, empathy, respect for the feelings of others, respect for the feelings of animals, regarding all individuals as deserving respect even when they, by their own actions, appear to want to be regarded as pariah.  Most things of humor have to do with attitudes taken on by ourselves and others in ways that at their core take on an absolute sense of being right about interpretation and behavior.

Funny things are, indeed persons slipping on banana peels or being hit in the face by a well-timed thrust of coconut cream pie; they are also occasions of individuals, yourself included, thinking to know answers in the absolute when, in fact, behavior so often depends on context, the understanding of context, and the awareness that context is often as vague as our most recent intention.

Sisyphus is portrayed as a man doomed to eternal repetition of a meaningless act, about as dreary and unhealthy a circumstance as a human could endure.  But along came Albert Camus to observe that Sisyphus was probably a happy man.  Your own reasoning on this score has to do with Sisyphus and many others similarly dedicated to meaninglessness had to "invent" funny to allow them something stronger than ale, something less apt to cause a hangover.

Life is funny and we would be a good deal closer to a significant seriousness if we were able to recognize and embrace this.  To put matters another way, if life were not funny, a significant number of individuals would come forth to invent funny; many if not all of them would be writers.

You have no quarrel with those whose views on such matters as faith and prayer and supernatural manifestations are tangential to your own.  You have no quarrel with men, women, and children who end their days with some form of prayer before they lapse off into sleep.  Your quarrel is with the men, women, and children who allow days to elapse before indulging the prayer of laughter.

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