Friday, March 02, 2007


Of Laughter

There is a difference in laughing at a tickle and laughing at a comedy. Laughing at a tickle is hard to explain – it’s involuntary, it’s torment. Comedy on the other hand is even harder to explain. It is a procedure of surprise at the absence of sense – it’s the way of finding relief, of breathing. It’s a laugh which constructs a space for irony. It is laughing because there is nothing else to do if one wants to keep on living.

I remember a time when I laughed when Jennifer cried (mourning is sort of like the inversion of comedy). I laughed because I didn’t know what else to do. It was not out of scorn or derision (which isn’t really a laugh anyway). She was crying because I didn’t understand her and I was laughing because I didn’t know how to understand. The whole thing seemed ironic there on the love-seat under the skylight outside my dad’s study in my family room in Ohio. We had got ourselves into this nonsensical relationship in which both of us were trying desperately to make sense, yet we weren’t communicating what we wanted to say – we may as well have been blowing hot air in each others ears (which tickles but is not really pleasant).

I had to think of this unfortunate event (which by the way with a little space to breath worked itself out such that I don’t remember what we were trying to say in the first place) after hearing the heavily bearded philosopher of the desert of the real, the fragile absolute, the Big Other, Slavoj Zizek last night. Zizek put on good show demonstrating the stink of the neighbor (people who are different that me/we), and why Habermas will be thrown in the gulag in Zizekistan (he was joking i think), while all the while issuing mysterious "shh" noises as punctuation accompanying his more coherent idiosyncratic grammar, and gesticulating in a nose-pulling to shirt-pulling circular pattern. He talked about among many things the circus of totalitarianism, Stalinism in particular. He said that when Stalin volunteered to commit suicide shortly before his demise the Politburo burst into laughter. The irony of a man, the ringmaster, who had allowed if not directed the destruction of so many offering himself as a martyr struck the Russian funnybone. This laughter seems bizarre to us just as laughing at the fate of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis seems terrible. But the Iraqis can laugh and I’m sure they do. They laugh at the terror, the powerlessness, the nonsense, how else could they keep living? They would probably laugh if Dick Cheney offered to try waterboarding like an insurgent (“it’s just water”), because the strength of his character would not bring back their children, husbands, wives. And that’s the tragedy, the people who cause the circus don’t know they are directing a comedy. They don’t know why the Iraqis are laughing at them.


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