Thursday, September 04, 2014

Choose the Happy Pill and Escape the Matrix

It's odd enough that life should suddenly arise in a lifeless universe, but what about laughter? "On the evolutionary level where laughter arises," notes Koestler, "an element of frivolity seems to creep into a humorless universe governed by the laws of thermodynamics and the survival of the fittest."

Which leads to the question: is humor essential to man's nature, or an accident? Put conversely, is an intelligent being without this thing called "humor" conceivable? If Koestler is correct, it would appear not, since it is so bound up with the logic and structure of scientific discovery and artistic creation, and certainly the latter two are essential to man. But is humor just an unintended side effect of those -- a mere spandrel?

If so, the spandrel must have arisen quite early, being that it is so woven into the nervous system. As Koestler writes, "Humor is the only domain of creative activity where a stimulus on a high level of complexity produces a massive and sharply defined response on the level of physiological reflexes (italics his). This makes me think of the Law of Inverse analogy, whereby the highest is reflected in the lowest -- as in how, in the reflection of a tree at the far end of a lake, the top will appear closest to us.

The following visual aid depicts the "structure" of humor:

That little explosion at the center is where the two planes (M1 and M2) unexpectedly meet. It is the guffaw, but it is closely related to the aha! moment (or eureka effect) of scientific discovery, and to the guffah-HA! experience of spiritual awakening. The latter two might look more like this:

The squiggly line on the horizontal plane represents what we call wandering in the bewilderness or blundering in the wonderness while remaining open to the Answer. In a way it is the crookward path of Faith, since it is a kind of implicit foreknowledge of an as yet undiscovered reality. And yet, we "know" it's there somewhere, otherwise we wouldn't be wandering around like that.

Now that I think about it, it's the same with humor. Let's say I'm looking for material for one of my devastatingly clever tweets. Sometimes you look at a news story and know that there's no point trying, because you'll never wring any humor out it. Other times you just know the joke is buried in there somewhere. Which is why I am so envious of Iowahawk, because his comedic genius is able to mine humor from situations where I would have closed up shop and said "nothing funny in there."

Like, here's one related to Biden's bizarre rant about the Obama administration following terrorists "to the gates of hell." The rant was sufficiently funny that most would be content to let it speak for itself, like an America's Funniest Home Videos contestant. But Iowahawk says: AND ONCE YOU ARRIVE IN HELL YOU WILL BE READ YOUR RIGHTS IN ACCORDANCE WITH MIRANDA VS ARIZONA AND PROMPTLY GIVEN COUNSEL! It's funny because the overblown rhetoric is suddenly bisected and deflated by the reality of our testosterone-deprived administration.

(My offering: Biden: "We will follow our enemies to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice." No shit. Leave the Tea Party alone!)

But you should probably just insert your own examples, because trying to explain humor gets tedious pretty quickly, and besides, I only do it as a kind of verticalisthenic exercise to try to find a link between distant planes -- you know, like a paranoid psychotic.

About those planes: they may be thought of as "frames of reference," "associative contexts," "types of logic," "codes of behavior," or "universes of discourse." Koestler settles on the term "matrices of thought" -- and right away something tells me this term has comedic potential because of its evocation of The Matrix. Koestler defines a matrix as "any ability, habit, or skill, any pattern of ordered behavior governed by a 'code' or fixed rules."

Think about Neo when he's not just living in A matrix but THE Matrix. You might say that the punchline occurs when he takes the red pill. Or, prior to that, Morpheus essentially asks Neo if he would like to get the joke, which the pill facilitates. One is reminded of how psychedelic drugs may cause a similar awakening to new frames of reference.

For us, the left is indeed living in the Matrix, and now that I think about it, most of our jokes at their expense have to do with this. I will use my own tweets because they are close at hand, not because they are Iowahawk level:

--Obama is on to something: we can defeat ISIS if only we organize the Muslim world, or in other words, get them to cease being Muslim.

--White House attempting to authenticate beheading video before committing to golf game.

--Bush: hit those with links to terror before the threat becomes imminent. Obama: respond to imminent threats of terror by hitting the links.

Each one starts in the left's matrix and suddenly skewers it with a shiv to the ribcage.

Yes, comedy, it seems, is intrinsically aggressive, but we're out of time this morning. To be continued...


Blogger julie said...

Each one starts in the left's matrix and suddenly skewers it with a shiv to the ribcage.

A good comedian is like a master locksmith, or maybe demolitionist, who with a simple pick can find the even the tiniest crack, and by applying just the right type of pressure, make a whole structure come apart.

9/04/2014 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I'll tell you if you're a comedian -- scoot to 33:40.

9/04/2014 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

That was funny even without knowing the entire depth of the humor. I suppose a good joke can - or even must? - be just as full of depth as, say, a good game of baseball: accessible to almost anyone, but with layers of meaning that make it funnier depending on how much you know.

9/04/2014 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Skorpion said...

"You don't smell so good yourself!"
-- the Brothers Horwitz

9/04/2014 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...


Iowahawk really dings a bell when he makes that crack about the devils reading you your rights. Hell must be all about rules, rules, rules. Hell's laws are the expression of the egotistical will to power, which is totalitarian. Hell won't be where you party it up with other sinners while God's away on business - it's where the devils have you in their total, complete bondage. And God? You gave him the finger long ago, and like a sad father, he nodded because you were an adult, and let you. You wouldn't have time for Him anyway. The devils are always in your face about something, always with the "re-education," and it's unremittingly painful.

9/04/2014 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Instead of worrying about the gates of hell, let's just lock the gate on the border.

9/04/2014 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

... to the gates of hell, manned by highly trained TSA agents.

Your burkas won't help you in the X-Ray machine.

9/04/2014 10:42:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Burkas and the x-ray machine ... there's gotta be a joke in there somewhere.

9/04/2014 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

or maybe a good name for an Indie group

9/04/2014 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I've been reading Camus' "Myth of Sisyphus", and that's how he introduces the idea of absurd. The absurdity lies not in the human mind and reason and not in reality. Absurdity arises only when human reason tries to grasp reality and realizes the incongruence.

9/04/2014 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

We will follow our enemies to the gates of hell, and then we will get international support until we can manage them.

9/04/2014 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger whitney said...

I did listen to bidens comment and I noticed the applause was tepid at best which seemed really incongruous. Presumably, biden was speaking to supporters and they didn't seem to be taken with his empty rhetoric....for entirely different reasons than his non-supporters I imagine

9/04/2014 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Biden has supporters?

9/04/2014 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

In other news, almost heaven, West Virginia where even the astroturf grows.

9/04/2014 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Wow, that's dedication.

In other news, Nazis kept those trains running just like clockwork. If you were a German, it was pretty great!

9/04/2014 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Joan Rivers has taken her show to the next level. It's sad, and somehow she must be writing a joke over the outrageous irony of her vocal chords delivering her coup d'grace.

9/04/2014 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

She had a funny line the other day about people trying to comfort her about a friend's death:

"Oh please, don't tell me she's in a better place. She had a house in the Hamptons!"

9/04/2014 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I was just starting to appreciate her.

I guess now she can see for herself whether her friend is in a better place. Assuming she doesn't crack too wise and tell St. Peter his robes look too gay.

She had some good one liners.

9/04/2014 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Joan Rivers said...

I've had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware.

9/04/2014 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Joan Rivers said...

The ideal beauty is a fugitive which is never found.

9/04/2014 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

"Yes, comedy, it seems, is intrinsically aggressive,"

Did anyone do it more aggressively than Joan Rivers? Her pic is next to the word, "acerbic" in the dictionary.

Funny how a comedian would say, "I killed 'em tonight."

9/04/2014 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Joan Rivers said...

Your anger can be 49 % and your comedy 51 %, and you're okay. If the anger is 51 %, the comedy is gone.

9/04/2014 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

If the anger is 51 %, the comedy is gone.

Which is why Letterman was never funny to me. Ever.

9/04/2014 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Letterman certainly got worse after he lost out to Leno. Neither of those guys were ever in the same class as Dangerfield, Don Rickles, and Joan Rivers.

It's weird what jokes I remember. One time with Carson she was talking about Charles and Diana getting married -- "He's Prince, she's Lady. What do they call their dogs?"

I would guess that she and Rickles are the stand-up comedians who have gotten the most and biggest laughs out of me over the years -- partly because they were on so much when I still watched television.

I used to always get a laugh in person by using another comedian but not by telling his jokes.

The good news is that people tell me I look just like someone famous.

The bad news? It's Drew Carey.

It could be worse. It could be Jack Elam.

9/04/2014 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

To each their own. Joan Rivers was not my cup of tea, nor was Don Rickles. Loud and brassy is a wall I find difficult to get beyond. I appreciate the self deprecating humor that she used so much, but at most it would evoke a minor "ha" because of the delivery style. Maybe being a mid-westerner was the issue because I have an aversion to the hard scrabble tone of the eastern seaboard accents, usually.

I do like Dangerfield though. He's funny just to look at with his twitching and other mannerisms.

9/04/2014 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Yeah; as I said, I was only just beginning to appreciate her. Most of the time, I responded just as you. More recently, though, I found I quite respected her refusals to worship at the altar of political correctness. And seeing her words written (as opposed to watching her delivery), I have to admit there was more to her than I knew.

9/04/2014 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger Christina M said...

My first thought on hearing Biden was, "Too bad he doesn't believe in hell."

Interestingly, Biden was probably still coming down off the fumes of the week before's homily which had to do Caesarea Philippi, which has a cave there known as the "Gates of Hades." Maybe?

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

Kind of eerie to me:

9/04/2014 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Interesting history of Caesarea Phillipi. I had never heard that before; most of the Biblical place names tend to be unevocative to me, because I don't know what matters about them. Adds a whole 'nother couple of layers to the speech about storming Hades, not to mention lobbing a couple of punny jokes for anyone with ears to hear.

9/04/2014 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Jesus may not have laughed in the Bible, but he did seem to tell a lot of jokes.

9/04/2014 03:15:00 PM  

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