Wednesday, April 18, 2012
SeinLanguage by Jerry Seinfeld
For me, this book was an ‘inbetweener’. It helped lighten the load between Hawking’s A Brief History Of Time and an anthology of existentialist thought titled Existentialism. And lighten the load it did. I read just a couple pages each time I came to it, and put it down with a more cheerful and ‘breathable’ outlook.
Everyone knows Seinfeld’s humor (if you don’t, I don’t want to know you anymore…simple as that…just leave). He cracks jokes about everyday things that we take for granted, and helps us see the absurdity of what we accept as normality and common sense. A running joke on his sitcom Seinfeld is that it is a show about ‘nothing’, the irony being that it is about everything little that happens in our lives, and not any one big happening. His plots never go anywhere in the strict sense of narrative progress, but they explore the everywhere and find in it the irony and wonder of being.
I truly believe we all need this sense of the hilarious mundane. Reading his jokes helps me, even if for a moment, not to be so consumed with restlessly prodding along the cosmic epic of my life, and to embrace the moment-by-moment joy and laughter that I can experience if I just open up my eyes. Not that Seinfeld’s humor always celebrates beauty and love, it also rejoices in the madness and destruction of the idiot, and that is funny too, no? Who doesn’t, at least inwardly, jump at a chance to call someone stupid, especially when that someone is us, and I think this urge helps us better define the boundaries of what we consider practical/impractical, or wise/unwise. The margins of our sanity can be a frightening zone to explore, but cognitively scoping out these borders can keep us from wondering too close in deed. Thus, comedy is a safety valve of sorts, allowing us to test the waters of danger in theory, not reality. That’s why I like to say, humor is soft danger, or soft fear. Humor is fear on weed. And that statement is weed on weed.
And now for a few examples from the book that had me rolling:
“I couldn’t be a maid. I wouldn’t have a good attitude. If I was a maid at someone’s house, I’d find them, wherever they were in the house. ‘Oh, I suppose you couldn’t do this…No, no, don’t get up, let me clean up your filth…No, you couldn’t dust, that’s just too tough, isn’t it? Don’t even try to help me. You rest. Save your energy so you can turn this place back into a filthy, stinking hole when I leave.’”
“Of course we all try and save time. Cutting corners, little short cuts. But no matter how much time you save, at the end of your life, there’s no extra time saved up. You’ll be going, ‘What do you mean there’s no time? I had a microwave oven, Velcro sneakers, a clip-on tie. Where is that time?’ But there isn’t any.”