Monday, December 19, 2005

Two guys walk into a bar...

"And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh."

Friedrich Nietzsche

I'm currently reading Steven Berlin Johnson's third book, Mind Wide Open. I have enjoyed his previous works (I used Interface Culture in one of the first Media Literacy courses I taught at Montclair State University). I recently had the pleasure of meeting Johnson(nice guy), introducing him at the New Jersey CIty University convocation, and interviewing him for a book I am writing. His latest book, Everything Bad is Good for You, talks about TV and media much in the same way that I view it (or do I see it the same as him? Chicken/egg syndrome). Regardless (not irregardless), I was looking forward to reading Mind Wide Open now that the fall semester has come to a close.

The first thing that struck me was a reference Johnson makes to humor. He states that he often interjects humor into unconventional situations (perhaps even at unorthodox times). He tests the limits of the situation, and those in it. I found this fascinating. Once again, he is writing what I have thought and felt about myself. I often find myself making jokes when others would consider it tabeau. As Johnson states, it is like pushing the envelope--seeing how far you can go and still stay within the limits of professionalism. Perhaps it is an intellectual risk-taking of sorts. It is certainly an unconscious effort on my part. As a matter of fact, I often laugh nervously during stressful situations (ask my dentist just how funny I can be!).

Sure,laughter is the best medicine. And a good sense of humor tops everybody's list of qualities they seek in a mate. But, is humor equivalent to intellect?

"Igor Krishtafovich is confident that humor always implies aggression. 'It is a bloodless verbal fight aiming to raise your status and strengthen your position. Even a friendly banter is a sort of intellectual clash, a kind of training before serious battles. In fact, we try to figure out who's the boss in the family when we poke fun at our loved ones,' says Mr. Krishtafovich."

If you're interested, this is Krishtafovich's formula for humor...

I can't see the aggression implication. Rather, I find the back-and-forth banter that so rarely happens invigorating! A verbal humor battle? I think not. More like a verbal humor dance. And what is a day without a dance (Nietzsche)?

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