Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Execution of Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein was executed for crimes against humanity last night. Certainly Hussein is an example of the worst sort of criminal, but I cannot help but feel this was pitiful and unnecessary. None of the evil things he did are undone by his execution. He would have died eventually and answered to God for his sins without us taking his life.

In my job I see a lot of people die. I watched a man die at the hospital yesterday. My response to the news was the same as I felt in the hospital: Sorrow. Even with my political opposition to the death penalty, I had not expected to be saddened by the death of someone as horrible as Hussein. I suppose my eyes are too full of seeing death. I want no part in killing, even those who “deserve death.”

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Internet and Identity (Dishonesty in blogging)

With all the fuss these days about personal information on the internet, it is interesting to reflect on the "internet self" many of us create for friends or strangers to see. It seems all this self-expression thrown out into the voyeuristic world of the web, often serves more to hide one's self than reveal. Here is a piece of my journal from a few months back:

It is odd to realize, now that I have my website for publishing thoughts I don't write nearly as much as I did before. Each thing I write is analyzed as it is written: How would this fit on my web page? I seem to have lost that freedom of writing without the burden of a potential audience.

My site is personal, but it is not private. While I never cared too much about my privacy, I do care what people think of me. I know people who read it. I want them to continue to think well of me. I want people who visit my site to find it impressive. All the thoughts are mine, but they are a tiny fraction of what I have written in my life. I choose things I think might be interesting or thought-provoking for those who would visit the site.

But isn't it also true that I choose things that might make me look more intelligent, honest, moral, and artistic than I actually am? The things I keep out of the internet version of myself is the lazy, hedonistic, petty, contradictory, and selfish. The digital "Jonathan Davis" contained in Google, Blogger, and MySpace is, I fear, quite different from the man my wife knows. It is perhaps a fiction similar to the "good doctor" I created my intern year. I think I am growing closer now to the doctor I had hoped to be now. Will the discussions on my blog improve me in a similar way? As a young doctor I think the concealment was a necessary part of the process. But is there any need for concealment on the web other than my sense of pride?

I remind myself that I created my site for discussion of ideas not revelation of character flaws. Private writing and prayer to God is the proper place for confession of sins. Neither I do enough of now. I also doubt the honesty of what I have written now, considering I am likely to eventually post it on my site.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Monty Python and the Modern World

Perhaps the Brits have the most interesting take on the world in which we live. And now for something completely different:

I just figured out what makes Monty Python so much better than any other light comedy. How sad it is! Beneath all the silly absurdity there is a deep, brooding sadness. What makes all the stupid jokes and acts funny is that it is so self-conscious. An idiotic joke is told and immediately it is ridiculed for its idiocy, then the ridiculer is himself revealed as another bad joke. The show becomes fluid as one skit flows into another, as the characters try to escape each ridiculous skit looking for one that is finally funny, but none of them ever work. The result is hilarious. They make fun of their own inability to make anything really funny. It is like watching an obese person make fat jokes; you laugh even harder because of how pitiful it is. You laugh because you are embarrassed.

Monty Python is the ultimate modern comedy. Ancient Comedies ended with joy and celebration. Monty Python mocks the whole idea of joy. It mocks the idea that a man could be whole or wise.

I had previously tried to explain my deep appreciation for Monty Python humor by saying that it is good satire. The problem is that it isn't good satire. (Anyway I couldn't figure out how satire that mostly focused on British society before my birth would be my favorite comedy.) Satire is never as funny as this. Satire has hope. Satire takes the moral high ground as it laughs at the wrongs of the world. Monty Python is a satire of a satire of a satire endless labyrinth of ridicule. They may laugh at the world but not from a vantage point of wisdom. These modernists are most acutely aware they have no access to wisdom. They demonstrate the absurdity of the world, then they laugh at the absurdity of their own demonstration. In the end the joke is on you. You laugh at yourself. You laugh at the absurdity of yourself. You don't laugh because you are happy; you laugh because you are self-conscious.

Monty Python is more than simple comedy. It is a visual demonstration of the philosophies of despair. Generations before last century wouldn't have understood or laughed. We laughed harder than our parents. Most likely future generations will laugh deeper than us. They may laugh so hard that they cry.

*For more Monty Python you really should see The Spanish Inquisition Show, The Silliest Sketch Ever, or the Philosophy World Cup.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Americans in the Modern World

Americans have always been a reactionary people. We have always reacted strongly to the world, and stirred strong reactions from the world. I don’t think we have quite realized that the modern world with its ills is mostly a creation of our unique republic. Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Americans is how we react to each other, blaming each other for the way the world has become. I jotted down a few impressions about regional America in a gridbook after a road trip a few years back:

Northeasterners despise the modern world in which they live. They see nothing better to do than make money and engage each other in class warfare. They wear black and carry themselves like Europeans, avoiding eye contact with strangers.

The people of the West Coast try to ignore the modern world by creating an imaginary world. They love Mother Earth, technological virtual realities, and produce most of the country's pornography. They try to avoid negative thoughts and trust psychotherapists.

Southerners try to acknowledge the modern world as little as possible, preferring culture that resembles the medieval. Southerners read historical novels, fly offensive Confederate flags, and sing songs that praise "old time religion." They are sentimental, hot-blooded, and irresponsible.

Midwesterners just can't figure out what is wrong with the rest of the country. The Midwesterners don't have problems with the modern world. They can grow up, get a job, get married, and grow old and senile in the modern world without causing such a bothersome fuss. They live where the country is flat. They live with neither mountains nor trees.