September 2003 (Updated on the 15th)



recommended Books

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“The Shadow of Humor”

by Jessica Kuzmier

     Is humor evil? Sometimes it seems that humor is nothing more than a mask for sarcasm, an awfully thin line that has to be watched. Generally, a victim must be supplied for the supposed joke to go off without a hitch. If you are chosen and don't want to be, well, lighten up and don't be so sensitive. I'm not sure how enjoyable that is for the target himself.

     There are a lot of people who make their living on this so-called humor. Many are comedians, or have their own show on radio or T. They can seem very funny, until they somehow use you or your lifestyle as the butt of their jokes. This is the stuff of slanderous lawsuits; people feel they are misjudged and exploited just for ratings' sake. Many times the defense of humorists like these is a glorified version of the "you're too sensitive" mode. It's just a joke. But are the victims really too sensitive, or is it really a good idea to justify poking fun at other people?

     The more insidious side of this reality is how abuse and bullying can fall into this category; minimizing responsibility of the perpetrator by blaming the victim for reacting at all, as though the fact that the perpetrator is reacting badly himself doesn't mean anything. It may be all well and noble to expect "receivers" of this humor to engage in noblesse, sticking their nose in their air saying, "Sticks and Stones may break my bones", somehow thinking that if people don't react, the perpetrator will go away and find a new victim. But this logic has two intrinsic problems: it somehow holds the victims responsible if the abuse does continue, and even if indifference causes the perpetrator to give up and find another victim, it does nothing to curb the perpetrator. Violence isn't better just because it happens to someone else. The person who feels justified to be violent with his speech sees no reason not to continue this behavior, especially when he is rewarded with book contracts, radio shows and movie roles.

     I have heard that the Bible contains the word "joy" over 800 times. The psalms refer to "laughter in my soul". I am sure this kind of joy does not set some poor chump up for target practice, as seems so common in societal so-called humor. Perhaps this is the missing ingredient in people's humor; secularizing it so a spiritual presence is cut off from the life of laughter. Perhaps this is another case of the soul's shadow rearing its head. Blot out the more joyful aspects of the spiritual, relegate it to the austere. If you do believe in some spiritual being at all, see this entity as judgmental or removed from the minutiae of human life. Then laughter, instead of being an exclamation of joy, can be justified to capitalize on shaming your fellow man.


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“A Question of Meaning”
In Po Bronson's book "What Should I Do With My Life?", he interviews a number of people who ask themselves this question.
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“The Name of God”
In the New Kingdom period of ancient Egypt, eighteenth dynasty (1350-1334 b.c.), Pharaoh Akhenaten introduced his one God, the Aten (or sun disc) to his people.
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