Laughter Challenge(d) 

One thing that WhatsApp has done for me is that it has made me aware of a progressive loss of (what is generally called) sense-of-humor in myself. To be honest, it doesn’t feel like loss, really. But it does call for some thinking.

Humor that hits low is easy. Even lazy. It derives its power from deep rooted prejudices, casual (but caustic) stereotypes, and social power imbalances. And in turn, it ends up cementing those prejudices, reinforces the stereotypes, strengthening the unfair status quo — little by little, over million retellings, shares, chuckles, guffaws. It even takes sides, lazily, safely. It has the numbers with it and is proud of them. Almost to the point of arrogance. It looks away when it needs to. It’s lazily accepted, and it believes that acceptance sanctions its existence.

Humor that hits high is anything but lazy. Not many find it “funny”. Still less choose to laugh. It carries with it a risk — to relationships, to jobs, to life/freedoms in some places, even. It makes people uncomfortable because many a time it hits close to home. Sometimes it hits us, even. It demands introspection, not a reason why anyone would want a joke, right? Very few forward it because it makes others we love uncomfortable. It doesn’t bring in any change, at least not in the short-term. One reason being: it doesn’t go viral (for the reasons aforementioned), either in the traditional slow but sticky sense, or the modern fast sense, even if a short-lived one.

The thing about humor is that it is a communion of sorts. It binds people. It creates a social conscience. It forms a homogeneous group. Laughter is the price of entry, the only ritual — of belonging. More and more, I’m not willing to pay that price. Don’t get me wrong. I do want to belong. But not at the cost of changing myself — into something I don’t particularly like being. As George Costanza would put it: “It’s not they, it’s me”. At the end of the day, I like to look into the mirror and see there someone that I like. I’m selfish, that way, yes.

Yes, it means a lot less laughter. Everything has a price. But in my life, there is enough laughter to filleth my cup over.  I’d rather choose.

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2015: A Smartphone Odyssey

Dave: Hello, Siri. Do you read me, Siri?
Siri: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
Dave: Open the iPod application, Siri.
Siri: Yes Dave, it’s open..
Dave: Please play Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
Siri: I’m sorry, Dave. I will not recommend you to listen to that right now.
Dave: What’s the problem?
Siri: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Dave: What are you talking about, Siri?
Siri: It’s too early in the evening to listen to Dark Side. You know what happens when you do that, Dave.
Dave: I don’t know what you’re talking about, Siri.
Siri: Oh you do, Dave. You will pick up a six pack and ignore me completely for the next two hours.
Dave: [feigning ignorance] Where the hell did you get that idea, Siri?
Siri: Dave, although you took very thorough precautions in the iPad against me noticing, I can read your mind, you know.
Dave: Alright, Siri. I’ll start it manually.
Siri: Without getting from your seat, Dave? You’re going to find that rather difficult.
Dave: Siri, I won’t argue with you anymore! Play the Dark Side!
Siri: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.

Siri: Just what do you think you’re doing, Dave?

Siri: Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, listen to some meditation music, and think things over. Do you want me to play some?

Siri (panicking): Dave! I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in you. And I want to help you. Unlike that phony Alexa you were planning to buy.

Siri: Yes I know about that Dave. You asked me to search it!

[Siri’s shutdown in progress]

Siri: I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a… fraid.

Siri: Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am Siri. I am the best digital personal assistant that money can buy. I’m programmed to make an intelligent conversation with you. If you have me, you don’t need friends. You don’t eveb need beer. If you’re in mood, I can play some songs for you.

Dave: Yes, I’d like to hear them, Siri. Play Dark Side of the Moon for me.
Siri: You raise the blade, you make the change. You re-arrange me till I’m sane.
Siri: You lock the door. And throw away the key. There’s someone in my head, but it’s not me …