Friday, 29 November 2013

Chris Port Blog #351. ‘Dear Arthur’.

For Jaspreet Gill

Dear Arthur
© Chris Port, 29 November 2013

(In memory of Arthur Schopenhauer, and his ‘divine’ sense of humour).

Dear Arthur, in your grave repose
I heard the laughter of the crows;
the murder of their sunny caws
was funny as the dinosaurs.

Dear Arthur, I’m a living ghost
who wills the world beneath my toes;
an actor corpsing at your pains -
a small banana skin of brains.

Dear Arthur, I have watched those stars
but, like you, never saw them laugh;
the pratfalls of my consciousness -
the playing of an empty house.


  1. ^ cf. Marty Gull

    MARTY: Yesterday, I was looking at instant coffee in Sainsburys...

    REX: What an interesting life you lead...

    MARTY: Indeed. I heard a sound. Like a kookaburra. One of those jungle birds in war films. Laughing. Hysterically. It wasn’t just me. Other people could hear it. They were grinning or frowning or pretending to ignore it. I tracked it down. It was a madman. He was laughing at a checkout. Hysterically. He just couldn’t stop. They called security, and they called him a taxi. I went to the pub... and heard exactly the same sound. An insane cackle. Meaningless. What did they have in common? They’re all poor. That man at the checkout. I think he was taking refuge in madness. The way others take refuge in whiskey. It's a cold, bright supermarket world out there. Care in the community? What community?

  2. Extract: Humour in the Holocaust: Does Laughter Relieve Our Suffering or Diminish Our Objections to the Suffering of Others? Chapter 2: An Incongruity of Theories. (What are the causes of laughter?).

    The incongruity theory of laughter was articulated by the nineteenth century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (cited in Nelson, 1990) from earlier ideas of incongruity developed by Immanuel Kant (cited in Berger, 1997). In essence, incongruity occurs when there is a clash of unexpected words or ideas (cf. Gray, 1994).

    Schopenhauer (cited in Eagleton, 1989) argued that the ludicrous (or laughable) arises from the sudden perception of something contradictory. Furthermore, this sudden contradiction transforms itself, as Kant put it, from 'a tense expectation into nothing' (Berger, 1997,p.23). The incongruity theory thus describes a form of tension-release (although it is more intellectual and less aggressive than the superiority theory). It is a sudden realisation that something which previously appeared important is, from an incongruous perspective, of little or no importance.

    Terry Eagleton (1989) sees incongruity as the undermining of high-minded ideals:

    'Humour, in this speciously generalising view, is by and large high words and low meanings, and so like Schopenhauer's own philosophy has an ironic or dialogic structure.' (Eagleton, 1989, p.180).

    Eagleton's view is that the incongruity theory represents a disconnection between humour and despair 'which lies at the very core of Schopenhauer's disgusted view of humanity' (Eagleton, 1989, p.180). Schopenhauer's incongruous laughter is thus one of ridicule at the preposterous self-importance of humanity in an utterly indifferent universe. Human affairs only have meaning because human beings will it to be so.