Friday, October 30, 2015

Humour as an essential survival mechanism

I believe that it is almost impossible for an intelligent and reasonably sensitive person to retain their sanity in today's world without a functioning sense of humour. A sense of humour was probably equally essential in all earlier ages as well.

And yet different people's senses of humour are sufficiently individual that different people can and do wrongly perceive each other as not possessing one.

Many years ago the student electorate at Bristol University, in what may have been several hundred people's idea of a joke or reflect the fact that they didn't want their preferred candidate for President of the Union to have things all her own way, elected people from two diametrically opposed slates, (one of those elected being myself), to positions which forced us to work closely together for a year.

Early in that sometimes challenging relationship, one colleague warned me to be careful because a person who I shall call X had, quote, "No sense of Humour."

I wasn't sure that was right, but I did note that the individual concerned did have a tendancy to miss irony and take offence at certain jokes, so I was careful what I said around her.

That may have been one of the reasons why the individual herself accused me several times towards the end of the year of having no sense of humour, thereby becoming literally the only person in my half-century of life out of all the tens of thousands I have met who has made that accusation.

I asked the person who had originally said that X didn't have a sense of humour whether, after nearly a year of working with her, he still thought this and added that she had said I didn't have one. His reply was "You both have blind areas of humour."

I suspect most people do, and where one person thinks another has no sense of humour it is perhaps most often because the "blind" and most acute aspects of their respective senses of humour overlap.

Or because their "deadpan" ability, e,g, skill in saying something which is intended humorously but requires you to think at first that they are deadly serious is just too good.

I also worked for several years on a school governing body with someone who in her professional life was a very senior health and safety inspector and at the end of that time could not make up my mind whether she had absolutely no sense of humour at all or a very good one indeed. I was however pretty certain she wasn't anywhere between those extremes!

There is an interesting article in the Guardian by Jonathan Coe which appears at first to be a response to Martin Amis accusing Jeremy Corbyn of having no sense of humour but is actually mostly a philosophical reflection on the importance of humour, and which asks whether social media and the increasing pace of modern life and electronic communication is undermining it.

For all our sakes I hope the answer is no.

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