I am a humanist, but I would love to be a humorist. I believe Humans are rare and odd creatures. Our world is in turmoil. People are being murdered, hungry, enslaved, mistreated, and by no other than our own hands. There is nothing new here; this state of being has always been so, evidenced in our short history on the planet. Now, the horrors are communicated globally at breath-taking speeds.
To counter the ill will, hatred, and despair, I have been thinking, instead, about what delights us. The art of humor: distinctly human, cultivated over generations; sometimes used to communicate complex ideas, other times to relieve tension.
The art of making people laugh with words is one talent I wish I possessed. I love a good joke and a well turned phrase. I am especially fond of the paraprosdokian: a figure of speech in which the latter part of the phrase changes the direction of the original meaning in a manner that surprises. Here are some of my favorite examples:
War doesn’t determine who is right…only who is left. – Bertrand Russell (? maybe)
Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening…but this wasn’t it. – Groucho Marx
You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas.
I have heard a lot of discussion recently about happiness: Pursuing it, how others find it, capitalizing on it in the gargantuan self-help industry. Defining it is subjective.
Is it overrated? Can we settle for “it is what it is” and be done with it? Is happiness like a drug – a fleeting flush of endorphins we hope to get again and again?
Dumpster Flowers 3 - Marsha Mogowski
I am reminded of Thomas Hobbes’ claim that life in nature is “…solitary, nasty, brutish and short.”
In nature, everything struggles to survive. All living things must force their way in survival or perish. A seedling pushes through rock and soil in a struggle to find warmth and sunshine. It then competes with other plant life for sun space. Competition, or as Hobbes calls it a “war of all against all” is the result. Organizing ourselves with social contracts provides shelter from the war in nature. So, by organizing into societies, we have provided ourselves with a bit of breathing room to pursue happiness. Happiness is a byproduct. Yet, we have taken ourselves outside of nature.
I wonder… is our increased societal organization really offering us more opportunity for happiness?
In my last entry, I mentioned that I was going to visit the Peace Mural exhibition in D.C. I went. My call to action:
Here is a person with something to say. If you live in the area or will be visiting for the inauguration, take a side trip to see and participate in this “piece for peace”.
As I entered the space, I was awestruck by the colorful tapestry of canvases and panels. As I drew deeper into the space, I began to weep at the powerful images and because of the sheer number of them. I wandered to the second floor. There were panels and canvases in process, still wet. I smelled the paint. The artist Huong, a slight woman, came around the corner and approached me. She shook my hand and began talking about the project. I began to cry again. She hugged me!
Huong explained that she was a teenager in Vietnam during the Vietnam war. She said that it was the American Youth protesting the war that inspired and ultimately saved her from that war. Yet the horrors of it lived within. This project, 15 years in the making, is cathartic – and it is magnificent. GO. Themes include: Voices of Children, Voices of the Troops; Mothers in War, The Peace of all Nations, The Flag at War, The Displaced and the Disabled, The cry of Refugees, and The Tortured.