Tuesday, February 06, 2007


So I haven't posted in ages and ages, what with finals and apathy and all (and I really have to stop apologizing at the beginning of each post), and even now I don't really have a firm topic to supply a post, so it's just going to be dribs and drabs.

  • The word miscellaneous doesn't look like it's spelled correctly no matter what letter you put instead of the first 'e'. The current spelling was verified by dictionary.com, but I still don't like the looks of it
  • Humor doesn't make sense. I think that I've decided that humor really just boils down to incongruity- a juxtaposition of sense and nonsense. But why does that make us happy? Is it just an activity like getting a foot massage that one finds pleasurable and therefore makes us happy? Or is humor inherently happifying? Freud has some theory that it all has to do with sneaking past inhibitions, but his theory didn't make sense and is based on patently false notions, like children not finding things funny. Even babies find a silly face hilarious, as soon as they have the notion of face down pat. So I don't buy Freud. The more convincing theory is that identifying incongruity helps re-establish our grasp of how reality should be- "Ha! I know that that is silliness, thus proving that I know how things ought to be. Ha ha!"- but that one feels a little bit off as well. So I'm still pondering.
  • And speaking of funny, we put up the most beautiful art display on the wall above my bed. It consists of alternating black and white sheets of construction paper with the captions, respectively: "Three Generals at Antietam at Midnight", "The Light at the End of the Tunnel", "View from Inside a Black Hole", "Haydn Mountain Pass in a Blizzard", "Close-up of a Black Panther", "Your Mind on Drugs", and "Non-starry Light", and every time I look at it, it makes me happy.
  • Dribs and drabs is a funny phrase too.
  • And on to more philosophical thoughts (inspired by the way by the new House episode, never say that tv is an entire waste of time.) So two of the characters had this whole discussion about how if you believe in afterlife, this world is meaningless, and if you don't everything is meaningless. Baloney. (and yes, that's the spelling of bologna that I prefer.) Absolute baloney. Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, this world is everything we have to work with. What we do in this world is... a fact, a concrete creation that is and thus- especially if time is an illusion- always is. It exists as a solid chunk of isness sitting about in the universe. And it is only what we make it. Our actions are important because they exist, not because of their consequences or rewards. The reward for a mitzva, in a very real sense, is the mitzva itself. And doing something changes you, not in kabbablistic or psychological or spiritual ways, although I'm sure that's going on too, but because after you do something, you become a person who has done it. And that's all there is to that. And afterlife, in my mind, is nothing more than sitting around and being that person that you have made yourself, sitting around forever and actually seeing what you are. And this is all the heaven that we can hope for and all the hell that we could possibly dread.
  • And furthermore, the episode got into the whole good things happening to bad people thing, which is a gigantic sugya of its own, but all I have to say at the moment is who gives a darn why? Sitting about pondering why changes nothing, doesn't make the world a better place. I read a really nice shiur on vbm.com a couple years ago about how Job and Ruth have similar stories- people faced with awful tragedy- but the difference is that one sat about having philosophical ponderings and one went off and tried to help other people and to get through the day and to deal with the situation at hand. And one of them was eventually told by G-d "Give it up, this really isn't going anywhere" and one of them got to be the ancestor of David and Mashiach and all that good stuff. Of course, thank G-d, I have never dealt with real personal tragedy, making this bullet point not only presumptious, but also callous, but then again, many of the people who question the whole evil thing do it purely philosophically as well.
  • And lastly, I am apparently not only funny, but also somewhat terrifying when tired.
Peace unto you all and maybe eventually there will be a real post.


David said...

tobie I like the comment about Job/Ruth

yitz.. said...

humor: something incongruous that seems serious and important and turns out to be simple and new.

anyways i'd define it something like that.. why does it make us happy? two reasons, 1. things that are easy on our brain are pleasurable--that's the theory behind why symmetry is beautiful, because it's easier for our brain to process. 2. ideas that are novel release natural opiates in our brains.

humour is a combination of something new--so it's pleasurable, and something that seemed hard to process but turned out to be easy--also pleasurable. (if it was predictable or you've heard it before, the same joke won't be as enjoyable.. generally.)

Miri said...

yitz -
I'm not sure I understand your theory. if it was predictable, or you've heard it before, doesn't it make it that much easier to process? thus shouldn't it be more funny, according to your theory?

Tobie said...

david- thanks. Not mine, but I liked it too.

yitz- i guess you can define humor as something silly in a serious context, but then I don't think that's universally true, although no examples occur to me at this moment.

miri- i guess the idea is that the joy stems davka from newness that's made easy- although it's really the opposite- it's something that isn't new but is instead easy, so I guess I don't quite understand yitz's theory either.

Halfnutcase said...

tobie, you are rather scary.

Tobie said...

hnc- awwwwww, thanks.