Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Philosophy of Humor

I think one of the hardest things to know in this world is yourself… hard, but not impossible. Still, I don't understand people who lose their minds trying to find themselves. If you’re trying to find yourself, I recommend trying to remember where you last saw yourself. And remember: put things away where they belong and this won’t happen.

I do know myself. It turns out, I’m me, which is good, because I’ve been paying bills addressed to me for years now. I also know I rely on humor to cope with the world. There is something primal about laughing. Humans are not the only animal on the planet that laughs, which proves you don’t have to be that intelligent to laugh, but I think you have to be stupid not to. If you never laugh, I assume you didn’t get the joke.

At the core of all humor is observation and unusual connections. Sure, I can make a room full of second graders laugh by making farting noises, and slapstick comedy is certainly popular with some people, but even these might be included. The juxtaposition of an adult standing before a group of children and doing something they didn’t expect, or the unusual nature of seeing a fat person falling down for our amusement, are still working on the mechanics of breaking norms and presenting the audience with what is unexpected.

Humor alters the way the mind works. I’m no brainologist or rocket surgeon, but I know that there is some part of our brain we control consciously, and another (probably much larger, more significant) part that we can’t directly affect. However, I think we do indirectly alter the way the deeper recesses of our brains function, and I believe one of these methods is through humor.

In other words, I believe that we are who we are, not because of direct decisions, but because of what we do routinely. We are our habits, and I think one of the best habits you can get into is looking at the world humorously.

I don’t know why, but some people take everything very seriously. I’ll never understand why they make this decision, perhaps because they don’t know they have another option, perhaps because they look down upon humor as being frivolous. Deep down, I would like to believe they just aren’t smart enough, but I suspect it usually relates to something job related (jobs are awfully serious business).

Anyone can look at a situation without seeing the humor in it. It takes intelligence to look at something that you have looked at millions of times before and to see it another way. It takes a little luck for that observation to turn out to be funny enough to elicit a laugh from someone else.

The things I find amusing aren’t the same as for everyone else. I love the things we all do but never talk about, so those usually involve the human body. People are really uncomfortable about their bodies.

You don’t see a lot of comedy about feeling a painful bump under your skin, knowing it’s going to be a pimple. Maybe it’s on your ass and you awkwardly view it in the mirror, maybe it’s on your back and you have to have a spouse (or uncomfortably close friend) monitor it for you, or maybe it’s just on your face, like when you were a teenager. They always say then when you hit your teens, you get acne, but I got the impression it was something you dealt with in adolescence. It turns out it’s just something you have the rest of your life, like body odor and the urge to stay in bed in the morning.

Sure, you shouldn’t mess with that little cyst. You can’t see it yet, so you might as well just leave it be and let it erupt naturally so you have a few more blemish-free days, but no… you press it between your fingernails and try to burst that mother fucker, because sometimes it squirts out and splats on the mirror like your pore just ejaculated. And you know, deep down, that you just prevented a pimple. That is sometimes the most satisfying part of my day.

But of course, this time, it’s not budging. It’s just getting redder, and maybe you left long, thin finger nail marks on either side. I always approach it again perpendicular, so that I have a nice little frame around the developing zit.

Of course, those are better than the ones that just bleed a little or drip a weird, clear or yellowish liquid. I took anatomy, so I know it’s called “interstitial fluid,” but we all know and love it as that gross liquid that portends the coming of a weird crystalline orange scab that you will inevitably pick at a dozen times before you finally wake up one morning days later and peel it back to reveal healthy skin.

I find that humor sort of alters my norms regarding what I am willing to talk about. I feel comfortable criticizing myself, and I don’t even mind criticism. Of course… getting serious criticism usually compels me to give a snarky reply, but even if it seems like I dismiss someone, I did read what they said and I do process it over a great length of time. I don’t know if other people do (or even can), but I don’t ignore anything.

Therein lies the biggest reason I see humor as a philosophy, and a helpful one at that. It provides for me a very distinct outlook, and one which makes it possible to deal with the sometimes heavy issues in life with a smile on my face. I can’t ignore much of anything, so a lot of things bug me. Sure, I have my share of first-world problems, but I have largely grown to ignore them. To me, it’s more depressing when you look outside yourself, at the big picture, at the world as a whole.

If I couldn’t make fun of everything, I wouldn’t be able to cope with it all. I would lose it if I had to seriously confront a world filled with natural disasters, disease, death, ignorance, violence, hatred, starving children, and adults who read Harry Potter.

3 comments:

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  2. First, I want to say, you have a real penchant for writing witty zingers. Writing comedy is a lot harder than people realize, and you my friend have a way of giving things a humorous touch.

    Second, I want to say I fully agree with this comment:

    "Anyone can look at a situation without seeing the humor in it. It takes intelligence to look at something that you have looked at millions of times before and to see it another way. It takes a little luck for that observation to turn out to be funny enough to elicit a laugh from someone else."

    Well stated.

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