Jonah is one of the most thought provoking writers I have stumbled upon. His blog, Days of Living Aimlessly is worth a visit for the wit, honestly, and humor he has to share. He, has on more than one occasion made me stop and re-examine some of my own opinions and beliefs. I am privileged to be hosting a guest post from him, so without further ado...
Ernest Hemmingway once quipped, "A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book." I feel like I'm getting close. What I don't know is, when I tip over into the territory of 'enough punishment', does what I've written to that point suddenly become funny or is it rather that what I write after that will be funny. I need to know because, being probably just a few days away from 'enough punishment', if it turns out to be the latter, I should quit writing now and begin again when I'm finally amusing.
[pause for amusement]
Being jobless, impoverished, and uninsured, I have a lot of bad days, the kind of days that test my faith and tempt me to throw in the towel. I keep hoping I'll make my way out of the woods, but instead I seem to be getting in deeper. I've been so deep in the woods for so long that I'm beginning to smell like pine straw and humus.
Humus, of course, has the same Latin root as humor, which fact prompted me, in fact, to think that I must be getting close to a breakthrough in the laugh department. You know...because I already smell funny. Who knew that wearing the same pair of pants every day for 6 months running would pay off?
Humus is not dirt exactly. It is organic material that becomes a component of dirt. It is compost. It is not to be confused with hummus, that occasionally palatable concoction of pureed chick peas, olive oil, and garlic that Mediterranean folk like to spread on their flat bread. Of course if you throw hummus in the back yard, as I have been tempted to do on more than a few occasions, it will eventually yield up one of its Ms and become humus. Often as not this would be an improvement.
Now, having thoroughly disparaged hummus for it's philosophical proximity to humus, I have to say that I am quite fond of cabernet sauvignon, which, in the vintages that most appeal to me, is also very close to humus. As my wife would say, 'it tastes like dirt.' Not all cabernets taste like dirt, of course, only the really good ones, the ones hoity toity wine critics would say contain notes of oak bark, berries, chocolate, and earth. It's the earth notes that make it a cabernet.
I often wonder how wine critics know how earth and oak bark taste. I also wonder how, since they seem to like the flavor of humus so much, they still manage to take themselves so seriously. I mean, seriously, did you ever meet a wine critic with a sense of humor? They may be acerbic wits, but they are almost never LMAO funny no matter how much dirt they have ingested. I think this is because, like me, they enjoy the taste of it, the dirt that is, at least when it's nicely wrapped in a robust red wine. Enjoying the punishment doesn't count. Masochists don't get a pass because they enjoy the suffering. Enjoying the pain makes it something other than suffering and does not therefore fortify the funny bone.
Humus notwithstanding, it's the enjoyment of earthy wine that squirrels the deal and knocks you off the path to humor. If you want to be funny, according to Pappa, you must take your punishment. You've got to suffer for your art. You can't cruise through life swilling wine and hope to ever become amusing. You may think that you have become amusing. You may think that you are in fact hilarious, but anyone who has ever served as a designated driver will attest that this is just not true. It doesn't matter how much your beverage of choice tastes like it's been steeped in stuff that was scraped up off the forest floor.
This might explain why Hemmingway, who was not afraid to speculate on what might be required to write a really funny book, never actually wrote one.