The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"


What have joking and dreaming in common? Apparently nothing, but both belong to the category of acts that do not seem to have a useful function. Like dreaming, joking seems to be a pointless waste of energies. Like dreaming, joking is some kind of playing with our experience. Like dreaming, joking is a process of rearranging our experience in a somewhat irrational way.  Like dreams, jokes do not necessarily require linguistic skills, but normally occur in a linguistic context. More than dreams, jokes seem to have developed in humans to a level far more sophisticated than in any other species. We see animals play and laugh, but the gap between a comedian and two lion cubs wrestling in the grass is enormous.

While there may be no biological evidence to support the idea that jokes have a specific function for our learning and survival, one wonders why we enjoy so much making them.  Woody Allen once said that comedy is tragedy plus time: when something tragic occurs, it is inappropriate to make fun of it, but months or years later it may be perfectly appropriate. If I trip on something and break my leg, I am in no mood to hear a joke about it, but it is more than likely that years later somebody will mock me on this subject. Jokes refer to past experience, and usually refer to tragic experience. If not tragic, then significant in some way. The point is that, indirectly, jokes help us to learn and to remember.

Jokes help us rehearse survival techniques in the environment. Jokes help us prepare for reality. Jokes tell us which situations we should avoid at all costs. Jokes, like dreams, are a brain's way to train itself without risking its life.


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