Originally published June 25, 2016
Something different today, primarily because I promised a dear friend of mine, Stacy J. Garrett, to support her project, “The Door.” Stacy has an amazing talent to draw her audience into the magic she sees through her camera lens. The Door is a project that shows us the hidden world, the one we forget as we grow older; even though we may need it even more.
During her fund raiser for the project, Stacy created a game. A scavenger hunt, if you will, where words are tucked away on various blogs which, once found, may lead you to the password that unlocks a secret door on her website.
As for my part, the clue is fairly obvious within this bit of prose, but here’s another hint; the whole piece can help you figure out what mischief she’s up to this week.
Recent fanfare on social media has led me to ponder a bit on the art of communication. More specifically, how we communicate when we think that saying things plainly will not be, well, fully communicated. When plain speech does not penetrate the white noise, we resort to methods that can be effective, or total disasters. This, of course, was part of the fanfare. As it happens, I suffer from a rather dry sense of humor. I find it soothing, and it works a bit like a code. Not everyone “gets it,” so they leave you alone. This is sad, however, because being able to get your point across without executing a direct hit, so to speak, can have a more lasting effect. Let’s start with a couple definitions.
Sarcasm: the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really want to say especially in order to insult someone, to show irritation, or to be funny. (remember the funny part)
Satire: the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
Ah, there it is, in order to expose and criticize people’s, um, well, you get the picture. I call this form of communication an art for a very good reason. In most of human history, speaking to power required subterfuge; it required things like the plays of Voltaire, the traveling minstrels of the middle ages, the stereo-typical parts that any audience would recognize, saying things no one dared to say “in plain text.”
One excellent example of the development of this art form was the Commedia dell’arte, or the full name translated from the Italian: Comedy of the craft of improvisation. The characters of the commedia were fixed characters, roles every audience would know and recognize. However, the actors would improvise freely within that character. Some of the players became so famous in their ability to move within the role, that they became the representation of that role.
One of the favorites, if you will, was a joker of sorts. A fellow that seemed to always be derailing the plans of his master, falling in love with his master’s maid, and making a general mess of things. But, while everyone was laughing at his antics, he delivered solid satire on the people, places, and foibles of the world he lived in.
This is the art, the ability to draw people out so that, while they are laughing, something of import slips into the thinking side of the brain. The art of delivering food for thought to an audience laughing, perhaps, because they do not want to accept that the actor is truly serious, whatever his, or her, expression or attitude.
For a taste of some masters at the art try a few of these:
A Modest Proposal, Jonathon Swift
The Lottery, Susan Jackson
Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis
Go visit Stacy – you’ll be glad you did.