The Deacon's Bench

davebarry.jpg“The truth is, if you’re a conscious human being, you are conscious more and more of two things.

First, you’re going to die.

Second, while you’re alive, bad things are going to happen to you and people around you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

And I don’t think we’re good at that. We pretend, day to day, that it’s not the case, that it’s a rational world and we can control it, and we can stay healthy and happy, and our loved ones will be around us. The truth is, none of that’s going to happen. You will die, and the end, even if you live a long life, is not going to be pleasant.

I formed a theory a long time ago that there are two reactions to that. One: religion. You create an afterlife. Now I think it’s a good idea, it makes people calmer. And then there’s humor. At its basis humor is a very strange, nervous reaction to, you know, death. To me that’s the only explanation of why so much of what makes people laugh really hard is scary. There are so many death jokes, so many movies where the humor situation is based on great danger–just a slight twist and it would be a horror movie. So to me that’s how we’re coping with it. We see right through our own narrative that everything’s OK, and the way we handle the resulting anxiety is to make jokes about it.

That’s an not original insight on my part. But the longer I live, the more I’m convinced that that’s why we have a sense of humor and dogs don’t.

I don’t know why we have music, though. That’s another issue.”

— Humor writer Dave Barry, The Atlantic (the magazine, not the ocean).

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