6.27.2006

Is My Brain A Jerk or Is It Just Me?

Some time ago I promised myself that, when I have some free time, I need to have a good ol' knockdown, drag-out, barnburner of an identity crisis. Maybe it'll have to wait until a holiday weekend because it's gonna be a doozy. It'll have anxiety and self-recrimination and I'm sure lots of drinking alone. I'm not sure if you can plan crises, especially so casually, can you? Did Khrushchev decide that after he cleaned out the Kremlin shed he was totally going to get started on that missile crisis...oh and also that scrapbook he's been wanting to do? I think it's possible that's exactly how those events unfolded, but Soviet Premiers aside, I need to schedule one. My reason for this is pretty simple, I want to answer one of the basic questions of the human condition: Am I a good person? Or, more specifically, do my mind and I really feel the way we think we should feel about the world and other people?

Sounds like a lame question, I know. Who gives a rat's tuches? Well, here's the deal. I've long known that sarcasm and (potentially) offensive humor are fundamental parts of my personality. Some would say the most fundamental. Those people rarely, if ever, speak to me. Sarcasm is, by its very nature, a particularly aggressive form of humor, as is off-color humor. This wouldn't seem to be too much of an issue as long as my interlocutors know that I am joking and don't mean what I say. When one is habitually sarcastic, however, the ability to be sincere becomes problematic. Doesn't a person who has cultivated a form of non-truthfulness as a primary form of expression soon see their capability for truthfulness atrophy? The question I must ask myself should be obvious: Give that, can one be good without truth?

The death of my capacity for truth is not a fait accompli. Or that's what I tell myself. Still, I have a nagging sense that my brain, at least unconsciously, instinctively goes for maximally sarcastic or offensive reactions to my environment most of the time. Now, if these unconscious reactions are my first impulse and they also are, say, offensive or racist or aggressive or whatever else my conscious conscience tells me is bad, might I, at the core of my being, actually be those things? That would suck.

I have two examples from the last few days. Both are comments or jokes that I was inclined to make based on things that were going on around me, but lucky for me I did not:
  1. At the Chicago Fire game on Sunday there were pieces of red or white paper taped to the backs of everyone's seats. We were all supposed to hold our sheets up to create the effect of a sea of red and white, the team colors. Not surprisingly, the annoying teenagers behind us, and annoying teens throughout the stadium, decided to fashion them into paper airplanes and throw them around. A number of them didn't fly well and I kept getting hit in the back. I almost, though I caught myself, turned around and asked the row of adolescent boys behind me, "Ummm. Do I look like the World Trade Center to you?"
  2. Today I was walking in the Mexican food aisle of my local supermarket and the following joke popped into my head (If someone else came up with this before, I'm sorry. I didn't know.): Why was the religious plantation owner excited to shop at the supermercado? ("I dunno. Why?") Because he heard they had free holy negroes.
You may or may not think they're funny and I don't really care one way or the other. (If you were on the fence I'll clear it up for you: They're pretty poor jokes.) The question for me is whether or not the unconscious drive to find such associations in the world around me (and the fact that I have to motivate myself to be bothered by it to the extent that I want to schedule an identity crisis) says something about the person that I really am? The vestiges of the academic in me wants to know, where do jokes like these come from? What do they say about the jokers worldview? Is there truth (in this case "subjective truth," whatever that might mean) in them? Should I just shut the fuck up and write something actually funny already?

2 Comments:

At 2:59 PM, Anonymous rebecca said...

as is already well known, puns are the root of all evil.

 
At 7:40 PM, Anonymous Shannon said...

My 2 cents: Human behavior is build with redundant systems. You can have an "evil" thought, but it doesn't make you a bad person unless you act on it. Even action doesn't necessarily make a person evil - the intent is highly relevent.

Sure, it'd be nice if we were perfect and never had less-than-worthy thoughts. But it'd be nice if I had a plate of whoopie pies here, too. Neither reflects reality, sadly. But, just like bravery doesn't mean never being afraid, being a good person doesn't mean never having a bad thought.

We all know there's really that soft, peepy center in there, Evan!

 

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