Hannah and Papa J

Hannah and Papa J

Monday, September 21, 2015

Yesterday

Dear Hannah,

I wouldn't call myself a fan of Sarah Silverman's, but I'm definitely a fan of some of her sayings.  And when she said a short while ago that comedians have to change with the times and accept political correctness, I think I agreed with her most.  In fact I woke up this morning to check my Facebook and asked myself what day it was, and when I figured it out it was the twenty-first of September, I told myself I would have what everyone else was having.

The chief benefit of having today's ethic is that it's something later than what we had yesterday; which means it's definitely better.  If this sounds like we should just skip all the way down to tomorrow then you've got it all wrong.  Not only are we incapable of telling the future, but whatever we'll have tomorrow isn't better yet because it isn't happening today.  But it will be happening today.  And when it is, then we'll throw today away and laugh at all the old folks, because today will have become yesterday.  I apologize if this sounds confusing -- it's the truth.  For the weekend.

The great difficulty of changing with the times is that you're never really sure when or how the times are changing.  For this we go to statistics.  We want to see numbers and graphs and lists of people who are doing things so that we know what to say out loud and when to keep quiet so that we can be popular -- especially amongst our college students, whom Sarah Silverman claims are always right.  And if the majority of students say we ought to stop using a term like queer we quit it, even if queer means weird and the overwhelming majority of people aren't gay.  And if the majority of students turn into Dominicans and start burning our heretics (who would have been orthodox centuries before and probably burning the Dominicans), we help them to gather the kindling.  No society of students has ever gone wrong -- not in Russia, not in China, and especially never in Italy or Germany.  Nobody ever woke up and realized his child turned into a backward ass.  Our teenagers are our saints; which is why they regress by turning into adults.

The one kind of person you never want to be is the person who starts a historical trend.   You want to be the kind of person who jumps on board right when it's gaining speed.  The first person to start a trend has to do all kinds of uncomfortable things, like nailing the 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, or the person who refuses to move to the back of the bus.  It requires thinking and bravery and fortitude and the horrible realization that you have something worth fighting for.  And the trouble with fighting is that you'll be fighting against the trend of the time, which as we have already agreed is the trend we ought to be following.

Nobody was ever a genius by thinking the things that nobody else was able to think.  Nobody was ever a savior by doing the things that nobody else was willing to do.  And nobody was ever funny by pointing out the things we ought not to be thinking and doing.  The comedian doesn't need any new material, which is why the most successful comedians are only making fun of our grandparents and ignoring our contemporaries.  They focus on the things we already knew, instead of introducing new ways of thinking about the ways we already think.  They find nothing absurd about us, because there isn't anything absurd to find.  The best jokes are philosophically conservative; which is why conservatives are known primarily for their comedians.

There is of course an objection to all of this, and it's that statistics are for cowards and politicians.  It's that (trends be damned) a man ought to think for himself and do whatever is right; that even if the whole world starts wearing their pants on their heads and running off cliffs and calling ugly things beautiful and beautiful things ugly, he can stand alone because he's a man with dignity, intelligence, and a conscience.  It's that the greatest comedy means telling the world why you think everyone's got it wrong, and telling it because you are the minority.  That's how we get majorities.  We make the things our college students think seem ridiculous.  At least, that's what I once heard an old man say -- yesterday.

Your father,
-J

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