A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Comedians, Politics and Life as we know it

So, TC reminds me that I can just change the channel, or turn the TV off if I find a comedian unfunny. Quite a revelation, let me tell you. Here I thought that once I figured out how to turn the magic box on, I had to just sit there and let my brain melt. Okay, that was a little snarky. Yes, you can change the channel or, as I eventually did, turn the thing off.

But that doesn't change the fact that folks that used to be amusing no longer are. At least to me. A goodly part of the reason is undoubtedly my changing perspectives on what's funny and what isn't. It's hard to make somebody who believes the war in Iraq was justified, with or without WMD's, laugh at a joke about the war in Iraq and WMD's. I get that part. But I don't think that's all of it. I'm not even sure that's most of it.

I think the rest of it comes from the very human propensity to belittle those who disagree with you (we never fully escape the school yard, do we?) and from how invested many people, comedians among them, get in their political perspective. The more fully you immerse yourself in a particular viewpoint, ideology in many cases, the less it becomes a "laughing matter." It's serious business, and ridiculing the other side-- the wrong side from the comedian's perspective-- becomes the focus of the jokes, rather than finding the humor that exists all over the place on both sides of issues. People are funny. But a lot of what humor often is, is taking a step back and look at a person or situation from the outside, or from a different perspective, and realizing just how absurd that person or situation is. Seeing things differently than the majority of people do. Hard to do if you are only seeing things from one vantage point.

This wasn't meant as a bias post, or anything, and I'm not claiming that most comedians are liberals and isn't that unfair, wah, wah, wah. I was just stunned by how incredibly UNfunny I found Bill Maher to be when I remember him being quite funny, often hilarious, only a few years ago. And I think at least part of that, maybe a big part of that, is that he has become convinced that one way of looking at the world is right and the other way (as if there are only two) is wrong.

Still another argument for a regular and thorough reexamination of your motivations and perspectives. How much of what you think and feel on various subjects is just knee-jerk conditioning from what was once an active and thoughtful examination of the topic? People are creatures of habit. How much of what we believe and do is a result of a conscious thought process on our part, and how much is just a result of our habits?

I'm more and more coming to the conclusion that ruts are dangerous things. We funnel down our ruts only rarely realizing all of the possibilities that exist outside of those well-worn paths if only we can manage to overcome inertia and redirect our energies.

It's emotional and intellectual physics. An object at rest will stay at rest until influenced by outside forces and a belief unexamined will not change. Sometimes external events make us step back and examine our beliefs-- a death, a new love, a crisis in our family, or something like 9/11-- but short of those types of things, it is up to us.

How much of what you think, feel and believe is a result of emotional and intellectual inertia? How often do you step back from yourself, your life, and take an appraisal? How many ruts have you fallen into without even realizing it, and do you like where they are taking you?

Nobody responded to my hell post, a while back, but I think hell could easily be having to relive something you did wrong or that hurt people you cared about over, and over, and over, knowing what's going to happen, wanting desparately to do something different, to change something, and not being able to. Recommitting all of your mistakes again and again and again with full awareness of what's going to happen, yet being powerless to stop yourself.

Ruts are like that, except that we can change them if we try. I'm going to try and consciously avoid them in the future.

Which should make Troy happy as it means I will not be writing much, if at all, about MSM bias for a while.


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