Monday, January 21, 2008

Cynic vs Fanatic, Humor and Reason

For those of you who saw the first word in the title and assumed that I would write something funny, sorry. When I try to be funny, I always end up being hammy or silly. The former always bends towards the didactic and loses the stream of humor and second simply eats itself, until the stream disappears altogether. Either way, I'm a poor humorist.

In fact, it is a pretty good humorist (ok, several of them) that got me thinking about humor and reason. Somewhere between listening to Jon Stewart (listen to this) and watching Family Guy (...I'm not linking...), I've wondered how these two things see each other and intermix.

To my mind (at least during this blog post), there are two different different types of people (note that I'm using type in a philosophical way, not a categorical way, these are two different approaches to human life...we're not limited to choosing either one or the other), the humorist and rationalist, the satirist and the fanatic, the poet and the warrior. This opposition of types is primarily emerging from two sources of inspiration: the Napoleon of Nottinghill and I ♥ Huckabees. The end of the humorist is anarchy, then end of the fanatic fascism. The first oozes reflection and, at its best, wonder. The second ejaculates excitement and, at its best, reason.

Where do these elements meet and play? Where do they fight? Where do they love?

For an example, think of a blog post I wrote awhile back on the topic of knowledge. My claim was that knowledge itself was rooted in imagination. Now in the past, people have said this differently, claiming that knowledge is rooted in abstraction and that was what imagination was about (thusly fantasy, fun, and all the other things we normally associate with imagination would've been considered detrimental to the objective science of abstraction). Without realizing it, they were asking that anything approaching wonder be removed from the maelstrom of knowledge, when, of course, such a thing could only kill it. An analogy could be the following quotation:
"I do not know whether the scientific marriage-mongers are right or wrong in saying that medical supervision would produce strong and healthy men. I am only certain that if it did, the first act of the strong and healthy men would be to smash the medical supervision."
Knowledge and reason is, by necessity, found by imagination. Wonder and amazement, fun and frivolity is actually found by the same. Imagination is exploration incarnate. And it is only by healing the brokenness between these two that we can stumble into truth now and again.

So what happens when the humorist stumbles upon reason? He calls it was it is, beauty. What happens when the rationalist stumbles upon amazement? He calls it was it is, faith. There are countless multitudes of circumstances where we fall over and onto each other. For example, when the anarchist stumbles upon the order of the fascist, he calls it peace. When the fascist stumbles upon the openness of the anarchist, he calls it freedom. It is only when we glimpse the other that we can truly begin to see ourselves, both good and bad.

Do you love your life enough to keep it?
Do you love your life enough to change it?

How can we say yes to both of these questions? Some say its the mystery of grace, others the mystery of love, others just a mystery. Without finding your way through this Scylla and Charybdis, you won't continue into the sea beyond. The other ways lead to the death: absolute power (become a hero by becoming a monster) or absolute disillusionment (become a skeptic and deny both heroes and monsters).

Ok, there are a lot of assertions here. What do you think of 'em?

Note: If you want examples of these types, think of the wild, uncontrollable anarchy of the Joker (it is said that "when supervillains want to scare each other, they tell Joker stories") and the cold, fanatical reason of Batman.

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