Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mirth and Me

When thinking of things beyond my control, I must include a distressing reality about the way cartoons now affect me, being nearly 48 years old.  I no longer laugh.  Watching Bugs Bunny or Goofy, I am conscious that a given moment is meant to be funny.  I see how it was constructed to be funny.  And I remember clearly when I thought it was funny.  Nevertheless, I do not laugh.

This is not, I think, because I have I have seen these cartoons many dozens of times, from the age of five onwards.  Granted, there never seem to be any cartoons I have not seen ... but for some, it has been ten or twenty years.  There should remain a novelty, in that I can't remember every scene, or every clever line.  And still, the same cartoons that shaped me once cannot wring a smile out of me.

I am awfully jaded.

It is a similar experience I have with modern "comedies."  I don't find them funny.  I watch and I recognize the points where the writer intended humour.  I almost envision a red square appearing at the bottom of the screen with the benign, somewhat subdued message, "laugh now."  There's no doubt that others are finding these scenes funny ... they are laughing all around me.

I do not think it is because I have become a mirthless person.  Just this morning I laughed so hard I blew coffee onto my computer, which had to be wiped up and which included the use of canned air to ensure the keyboard continues to function.  It took a good five minutes for me to stop laughing.

The source was an odd one.  I mean, truly odd.  If I were to randomly gather people together, it would probably take a thousand or so bodies to find one that vaguely saw the humour.  The humour, o gentle reader, is the sort that derives from having read a great deal, and recognizing the absurdity in things most would view with bovine disregard.  I am speaking of dry wit ... with the rejoiner that my morning's laugh came from a source I can hardly reconcile with normal daily culture.

See, reader - and here I speak to the very rare reader who can appreciate the source - I have been listening to a collection of audio books featuring Robert Whitfield, produced by Blackstone.  The one this morning was titled, Hume in 90 Minutes.

I've listened to three of these so far - Schopenhauer and Hegel would be the other two.  The writing by Paul Strathern is profoundly abusive of the subject in a way I have never heard.  It titillates me to hear anyone speaking of an undeniable genius such as Hume in such positively insulting terms.  There is no genuflection here.  My gawd is it refreshing!

It must, however, be a very small number of people who would appreciate a thing like this ... and what slice of my readers who have familiarity with David Hume, much less the audiobook, I cannot know.  A very small slice, no doubt; a larger slice, I hope, than might be found on other blogs.

When I consider that I cannot laugh any more at a bunny in drag, but I can laugh at the description of an English general (upon whom Hume attended) decided to attack France without map, plan or actual knowledge of where France might be ... it is no wonder that in a theatre I am always experiencing one of two scenarios:

1) Either everyone is laughing mildly, and I am bored,
2) Or I am killing myself laughing amid dead silence.


Dave Cesarano said...

...alas, yet more entries onto my miles-long "Must Read List."

Strathern, Paul. Schopenhauer in 90 Minutes; Hume in 90 Minutes; and Hegel in 90 Minutes.

Is there, by any chance, a Nietzsche in 90 Minutes or a Foucault in 90 Minutes? I'm positively tickled by the thought that there might be. Eee gads, I just thought of perhaps using these in a historiography course!

Alexis said...

There is a Nietzsche, along with a Spinoza, an Augustine, a Kierkegaard and a Marx. Not sure about Foucault. I was planning on tackling Kant next.

Scarbrow said...

I can relate, Alexis.

Not precisely to the audiobook itself (I have not the kind of time to listen to it right now), but to the theatre feeling. And even more often on the rare occasions when I watch what are supposed to be comedies on TV. Even on supposedly geeky series like Big Bang Theory, I find myself more often than not puzzled about the timing of the canned laughter, while I find conspicuous silence around me on truly funny (for me) scenes.

The logical consequence is, the more detached from the "common ground" the topic is, the more uncommon (and more alone) will be my laugh. I like to think it really shows how unique my mind is. Or more generically, the amount/quality of "unique-ness" of a mind could be gauged by its peculiar visceral reactions to certain stimulus. And what's more visceral than a good heartfelt laugh? It can't be faked, it can't be provoked.

Thus, the fact you no longer laugh at cartoons (I share the malady) doesn't indicate you're losing your sense of humour. It rather indicates you've outgrown what used to be fun. A rather good thing, I'd say.

JDJarvis said...

We all laugh at what we each laugh at. I enjoy a lot of cartoons myself but I also enjoy elaborate puns, scathing criticisms, and math jokes that no one would be slipping into a warner bros cartoon.