The Laughing God by Seth Jani
If there is one dominating factor prevalent in contemporary man, especially in America, especially amongst us youth, it is the existence of a very dark, very degrading humor. What I speak of moves beyond mere cynicism, beyond mere mockery. It is something akin to a madman’s cackle, a humor that intends with its bitter throes to belittle all things sacred, to make of human suffering, of human tragedy, a shameful and ridiculous charade.
I have found this extreme extension of gallows humor to be unbearably present both in myself and my peers. Every delicate feeling, every substantial insight, gets eaten away by its horrible howls.
The birth of such an insensitive, glitterless humor is not hard to trace or understand. In a world of frivolous consumerism, superficial half-cooked pleas for humanity and constantly-increasing mechanization, it is inevitable that some exaggerated means of coping should have to arise to somehow ease the disparity between the needs of our inner-selves and the cheap world we have built around us.
It was Nietzsche who first pointed out that man may be the only animal who suffers so deeply that laughter had to be invented, and Hesse in his later works cultivated humor as not to be driven out of the world by its indigestible demands.
But what may have come into being as a device of healing, has today become an intrinsic part of the nightmare.
Any serious writer of today has to move in a direction counter to the one embarked upon by the great minds of only a century ago.
Where they had to learn to laugh at the absurd seriousness of a shallow society, we must learn to take serious the issues of a world that has turned even the most harrowing events into a trivial, comic affair.
In essence where they were forced to make a comedy of the tragic, we must return an element of suffering to the heart of farce.
Laughter is key to our survival, but any humor that has become so irreverent as to be no longer coupled with any genuine sense of compassion and responsibility can lead only to self-destruction, or worse an irreparable severance from the source of our own being.
The great religious figures were at the highest peak of honesty when they proclaimed “Life Is Pain”, today “Life Is A Joke” is secretly chanted on the corner of every street.
If the poet is to have any positive impact on the consciousness of the times, it will rest in his ability to shake off the chains of post-modern cynicism that he may come to terms once again with the true gravity of our cosmic situation.