How long it has been since I ran into anyone capable of/willing to laugh at him/herself? It seems like forever. Sure, there are the phonies who self-deprecate with a preening gusto, but I mean really yuk it up.
Does it require intelligence to laugh at yourself? I half-hunch it does. Which makes me wonder if labeling those who cannot laugh at themselves "stupid" is a fair conclusion. To take something dead seriously ... and take the trouble to laugh.
It doesn't quite fill the bill, but it puts me in mind of a time shortly after Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" was published in 1957 and others of the 'Beat Generation' were banging their come-hither drums.
One evening, a friend and I went to a bookstore in Greenwich Village, the self-anointed bohemian quarter of Manhattan, and bought a book of Beat poetry. We were acolytes to what we perceived as a wondrous revolution of mores. Naturally, we wore all-black clothes.
Having purchased the book, we ambled over to an area plump with outdoor cafes and picked a table outdoors that butted up against the sidewalk. And there, espresso duly ordered and sipped, we ripped the book in half... and began to read alternating passages that had absolutely no relevance to the previously read passage. First I would read two or three poetic lines and then my friend would pick up the thread. Back and forth we read, straight-faced and, of course, loud. We were kool, we were dipped in the blood of the lamb, we were Beat! It was utterly ridiculous ... and in no time flat, passers-by on the sidewalk joined those among the cafe's other tables in listening to our oration. No one laughed, but we had the devil's own time keeping straight faces. No laughter. But applause when we finally stopped and put our scripts aside.
Secretly, in that long ago and far away time, I thought "On the Road" was not a very good book. But being the teenager I was, I didn't have the nerve to say so. All my 'bohemian' middle class friends thought the book was as a clap of thunder in the social skies. Everyone was kool and we were kool ... or anyway we wanted to be ... and perhaps we were.
But while laughing at ourselves and those who took everything so seriously, it didn't occur to me to wonder at the somewhat touching quality -- ignorant though it might be -- expressed in the throng. At the time, I thought it was all a great rat-fuck. Today, I see it as ... well ... human and not something to laugh at because I, after all, am human too.
I wonder if I will ever live long enough to laugh at that.