Laughing in the Dark

Are we the only self-hating species? The only species that commits suicide? Are we the only species that laughs? Have you noticed how little humour there is in mass extinction and environmental destruction? That this secular end of days is the source of hardly any comedy?

It’s unseemly — profane even — to laugh out loud about the anthropocene. Unless it’s that grim, knowing, gritted-teeth kind of laughter in which we marvel at being part of a civilisation more concerned with counting calories than carbon. (If only we could harness vanity in the service of ecological repair); in which we mutter, “well, you gotta laugh because what else can you do?” or “if I didn’t laugh, I’d be weeping”.

Yes, there’s a lot of Weeping in the Dark, but not much laughing. Which is also surprising, because we often laugh at tragedy. Think war (Black Adder Goes Forth, Waugh’s Scoop); racism and red-neckerism (All in the Family); religion, which is a tragedy only to some of us (The Life of Brian, Religulous, the Bible); humanity (where to start? Perhaps Gulliver’s Travels, Candide, or the Bible, again.)

If Henri Bergson is right and laughter doesn’t exist outside the pale of what is strictly human; and if, as he says, its natural environment is society, then shouldn’t this be a time of rolling in the aisles clutching our stomachs in uncontrollable mirth? Because what could be more human than this human-all-too-human epoch?

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This year, as well as te Reo, I’m learning Raranga. Here are two of my first firsts. (Then a third.)

My first kete riwai (potato kit). Which I didn't give away yet because, uh, it's not wildly presentable.

My first kete riwai (potato kit). I haven’t given this one away yet because, uh, it’s not wildly presentable.

My first kete whakairo (which I gave to my lovely niece, Rose)

My first kete whakairo (which I gave to my lovely niece, Rose)

My fourth kete whakairo...almost actually presentable! Both these kete are a Tauranga Moana patiki (flounder) pattern.

My fourth kete whakairo…almost actually presentable! Both these kete are a Tauranga Moana patiki (flounder) pattern.

Pōhutukawa: Te Rākau Kirihimete o Aotearoa

A trip around Mauao to look at the blooms. (Click on an image to have a closer look and cycle through the slide show.)

Creationism vs Unlimited Knowledge

A rather cool thought from Oxford physicist David Deutsch‘s book  The Beginning of Infinity, (p. 81)

“The prospect of the unlimited creation of knowledge in the future conflicts with creationism by undercutting its motivation. For eventually, with the assistance of what we would consider stupendously powerful computers, any child will be capable of designing and implementing a better, more complex, more beautiful, and also far more moral biosphere than the Earth’s, within a video game – perhaps by placing in such a state by fiat, or perhaps by inventing fictional laws of physics that are more conducive to enlightenments than the actual laws. At that point, a supposed designer of our biosphere will seem not only morally deficient, but intellectually unremarkable. And the latter attribute is not so easy to brush aside. religions will no longer want to claim the design of the biosphere as one of the achievements of their deities, just as today they no longer bother to claim thunder.”

I suppose if they thought about it, they’d claim thunder, since it’s part of God’s Creation, but I think I know what he means. Maybe.