A Merry ‘Whatever’ To One And All.
…‘tis the season to be jolly, tra-la-la, so let us be jolly regardless of polis in the Nanny State telling us what we may laugh at and what’s allowable as comedy. So what do we laugh at?
Says Henri Bergson in his essay on laughter and the meaning of comic: ‘We laugh at some rigidity or other applied to the mobility of life.’ We laugh at the exaggerated, the absent minded, the fixed, a grimace, an ingrained habit, a ritual or a custom or perhaps an absurd masque or costume made or worn by us.
Though we may laugh at a hat or even a pudding, says Bergson, it is because of some reference to its maker. ‘The comic does not exist outside the pale of what is strictly human.’ So herewith Mrs Cratchit’s pudding.
During The Little Ice Age, a Christmas Pudding was not be taken for granted… ‘Christmas Dinner with the Cratchits,’ – ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens:
‘… But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs Cratchit left the room alone – too nervous to bear witness – to take the pudding up and bring it in.
Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out! Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it while they were merry with the goose – and supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.
Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastry cook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered – flushed by smiling proudly – with the pudding like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half – a – quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.
Oh a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.’
We smile here at seriousness given to the occasion, the ritual of the pudding, but it is the inappropriate, says Henri Bergson in his ‘Essay on the Meaning of the Comic,’ that makes us laugh, laughter a peculiarly human custom, an involuntary response that doesn’t match the situation of society and its ceremonies. Bergson argues that we cannot help treating it as a living being. Any image then, suggestive of the notion of a society disguising itself, or of a social masquerade will be laughable…
‘The ceremonial side of life must therefore always include a latent comic element, which is always only waiting for an opportunity to burst into full view. It might be said that ceremonies are to the social body what clothing is to the individual body: they owe their seriousness to the fact that they are identified, in our minds, with the serious object with which custom associates them, and when we isolate them in imagination, they forthwith lose their seriousness.’
The masquerade, the burlesque, the pantomime…in this age of political correctness a snowflake warning for The Goodies and the ‘Travelling Instant Five Minute Christmas!’
Here’s a parody of those bland songs we have to listen to in shopping plaza, lifts and on the radio and TV advertisements during the festive season.. ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, with every Christmas card I write…’ – duh?
The Goons palpable absurdity at Xmas.
Hmmm, look hafta’ say you jest can’t reduce human complexity to the above behaviour, there’s that sense of wonder and reverence and our creative responses to them… There’s Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ and Handel’s ‘Messiah’, and then there are those Christmas Carols… Oh well, maybe play just one…
A Merrie, even Joyful Christmas, dear readers, to ye all, from a serf.