I'm looking at the man in the mirror.

So, I think I finally found an angle for the villain tonight -- ever heard of a cargo cult? In an nutshell, it's what happens when people start confusing cause and effect. In an effort to imitate those more successful than themselves, they copy the superficial details, while ignoring the fundamentals. Fascinating stuff, and as Feynman describes it, "cargo cult science" remains a boogeyman to this day for environmental labs everywhere.

Inspired, I deemed that the hapless mascot, Chubby the Checker, would start organising his own cargo cult of comedy. Here's what it looks like:

Alton cocked his head back. "I think you've lost me."

"You see, what Chubby's been explaining to us is how to act like clowns, so that we can be more like clowns. Once that happens, the humour will arrive in its own way, through its own volition."

"So... you guys don't worry at all about being funny."


"You don't worry about any sort of message you want to convey with your humour."

"No, not at all."

"You just want to learn how to look like clowns."


Alton winced slightly, and put on a brave smile. "Well, that sounds great! Is there any way I can join?"

"Sure! Do you have a pen?"

Alton found one on his person, and got a meeting time and place from the clowns. They thanked him, he thanked them, and they went happily on their way.

Then, once they were out of earshot, Alton screamed and screamed into the cold, dark, uncaring night.

See? They're completely missing the point of comedy. How horrible!

The problem is, try substituting "clowns" for "authors", and read that first paragraph again. Sound familiar? I don't know about you, but when my subconscious starts yelling, "EVERYTHING YOU DO IS A LIE", I try to listen.

I don't think I'm in that trap yet, because that's not exactly the goal. The goal isn't publication; it's communication. It's about taking something that every literate person can do, and practicing in order to do it better... and that's something worthwhile.

It's very easy to confuse the two, so it's always important for me to keep a skeptical eye on my own accomplishments, my goals, and the differences between them... and that's what I think about at twelve-thirty in the morning after writing four thousand words about clowns. Good night.


Erik Nijenhuis said...

Gotta love Feynmann. I have "surely your joking" on my iPOD. Brutal honesty is tough, particularly at work. Such is the life of an analyst. Seen any pronghorns lately?

Denton said...

You know, I'm very happy (and somehow reassured) to hear you say that. Feynman's been one of my role models for years.
And no pronghorns, but I've had two deer cross the street in front of me within city limits this week. Since it was night, they may well have been antelopes.
Oddly enough, they were both crossing near traffic lights. Only a coincidence, I'm sure.

Cara said...

The "word verification" for this comment is OBWAP. Magnificent, Blogger is.

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.