I occasionally run into trouble with people who don't grasp my offbeat sense of humor or tendency to embellish an opinion with literary exaggeration. It is mostly with men that I have the problem. And one female blogger I cross paths with from time to time.
Indeed, sometimes it is my fault. The joke is lame or misses the mark altogether, or the literary stretch is so esoteric that only I can understand it.
Some Filipinos can bend minds with the best of them, of course. Observe the wit of Mariano's comments, beneath the acerbic style, and you know he sees around corners, for sure. Or take the many Filipino writers who express amazing impressions of the Philippines and its people. I recently enjoyed Miguel Syjuco's 2010 novel "Ilustrado" for its cross-cultural, cross generational study. Talk about layers upon layers. Not humor, but intrigue. Insight. And a whopping twist at the end. Hard to read. Fun to conquer.
But so many times trying to exchange humor is like brains flying past one another with only a gust of wind to show for it.
I haven't quite worked out the dynamic yet as to what is going on. It has little to do with schooling, I think, for some who don't get my eccentric expressions are well educated. Maybe their education is in technical subjects instead of the humanities, I don't know. Or perhaps they never caught George Carlin when he was in his prime, breaking every conventional thought process known to mankind. They have not gone through the essential mind-stretching process that most Americans experience.
I dunno. I see Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" in National Bookstore, amongst a selection of Fairy Tales with Morals for kids age 4 to 8. I wonder how Filipinos would deal with Swift's "A Modest Proposal", in which he proposes that Ireland eat its babies as a way to cure the population/poverty problem that existed in Ireland at that time. And you thought young Artist Cruz stirred up trouble.
That poor Chinese satirist said the Philippines was a "nation of servants" and the reaction was much like Muslims react when their Prophet is the subject of cartoons. Absolutely shrieking at the culprit. He probably got death threats. Even though there is a basis to extend the mind far enough to declare the Philippines a nation of servants, as an exaggeration, for literary effect. But many minds can't get there from here. They won't even try stretching, or can't. They don't seem to understand that not every word written is intended to be a literal truth. It is intended to have meaning.
It wouldn't be much of a big deal except it is the lack of out-of-the-box thinking that keeps the Philippines decades behind the rest of the modern world in just about everything. It is a reactive society, not a brainstorming, planning society. Not a stretching society.
I suspect that part of the difficulty is that Filipinos rarely read, outside what they have to do for school. How many Filipinos have read that wonderfully funny and dry-witted gem "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency", set in Africa, written by Alexander McCall Smith? No, the title would turn them off, for no guy would carry about a book with that title and risk being ridiculed by his classmates. Even though the book was written by a man and is truly hilarious. And touching.
The finely honed risk of personal shame suppresses literary reach.
Or how about "The Spellman Files" by Lisa Lutz? Again the humor positively roars throughout the book, but sometimes it is strewn amongst the serious lines of a murder mystery. Would the humor be missed? Would the book never be picked up? It is, after all, a tad silly, and written by a girl. Not really macho.
How many watched John Cleese romp through the grandly wild, double-entendre style of the BBC's "Fawlty Towers"? Or if that is too ancient, how about Stephen Fry?
Did the "Life of Brian" not make it to the Philippines because of its mockery of the story of Jesus? Talk about stretching convention. The whole Monty Python series was ribald and sacrilegious and funny as hell.
You have to have a warped mind, indeed a well-read mind, to catch a lot of the jokes in these and many other works. Read "The Devil's Dictionary" by Ambrose Bierce if you want some serious bite to your humor. Never mind that the 1800's commie-pinko dude trekked off to South America and was never heard from again.
Much of my enjoyment in writing comes from engaging in wordplay to get away from the constraints of conventional thinking, to express new perspectives and directions and to offer arguments that have a bit of kick to them. Also, frankly, I amuse myself with a nifty twist of words that pops out of the cranial container for reasons I can't explain.
But they do.
What's a guy to do?
Write drivel? Say things the same humorless way Ilda would say them? Deny the enjoyment the human mind can get from humor? Or the satisfaction the eye-opening pop a finely crafted sentence can offer?
Well, here's the deal.
I'll keep writing what I write,
And you keep reading what you read,
If ne'er the twain of us shall meet,We'll naught the twinkle of good humor greet.