Intellect, Emotion, and Humor


How To Screw Up Your Life In One Easy Essay


Bob Hohman, head technical writer for IBM, walked into his class of 25 aspiring monks, went to the blackboard, and chalked three words: Child, Avocado, Roof. For a month now, he had been teaching us the principles of Rhetoric which to him is writing organized thought in a brief, concise, and flowing manner. Our task that evening in two and a half hours was to write no more than 8 pages and find a link among the three seemingly linkless words.

It should be an easier task to find not only a link but a vital connection between intellect, emotion, and humor. This is what they mean to me.

Life would be so much easier if we were pure intellect. Like a computer, the right answer would always result from the right calculations from the right input. But, what separates us from the computer is this thing called emotion. Emotionís a funny thing. We use it as fuel to drive the intellect to decision. But emotion is not mathematical, and, if not under control, can drive us into a tree.

So, if emotion gives us the drive to exercise and motivate the intellect, then, I suppose, it stands to reason that somehow weíve got to find a way to control it. Now, emotion, by definition, isnít logical. Extreme emotion like both the occasional painful, debilitating events in our lives and seldom achieved unbridled rapture prevent the effective driving of the intellect. Not only that, but extreme emotional events in our lives leave deep scars that can effect future intellectual decisions.

What the hell do we do? How can we know if a decision we make is based upon reason or emotion?

Folks handle their feelings in different ways. Once, as a salesman working my territory with my manager, we called on the director of a nursing home. The director turned out to be someone I knew from my childhood days. We reminisced, conducted our business, and left. On the way out, my manager turned to me and said "Jesus, that man stopped living thirty years ago". It took me awhile before I could figure out why. During my conversation with the director, it became obvious that he didnít give a shit about the present or future. His whole life was so routine that no decisions were required. He had lost the emotion he had as a kid.

Others let their emotions run havoc through their lives and direct just about every decision, completely devoid of reason or forethought. I know someone on the West Coast right now who lives only for sensual pleasure, probably doesnít have a good upbringing or moral model to use as guidance, and canít understand yet why heís so miserable.

In both of the above extreme cases, emotion has been sublimated or allowed free reign. Neither is capable of what we would call a reasonable decision.

Again, what the hell do we do? Wordsworth wrote of poetry that it is thought recollected in tranquility. But, I think that unless there is some way to jolt the emotion either out of its lethargy or slowing it down when it runs amok, then we canít reach that stage where emotion can drive the intellect. We wonít reach that tranquility that Wordsworth mentioned.

This is where I think humor comes in. Since I donít hold to gods or organized religion, what can a heathen like me use to bridle extreme emotion? Well, try this one on. Humor, especially the self-deprecating variety, acts like a conduit that letís the electricity of emotion flow from my body. Humor also acts as a control to kick the ass out of just the right amount of emotion to allow me to think more clearly and reasonably. Humor points to the incongruity of situations and the relief that comes with laughter settles me down to begin the thinking process. Once, before I got married, I lusted after someone so badly, I got sick and stayed home from work. As I was sitting feeling like a pressed wine grape, I started to laugh and didnít know why. I laughed Ďtil my sides split realizing the incongruity of my situation. After I stopped, I realized how silly I had become and was able to think through the problem. I had let simple lust drive me to sickness. WOW! YIKES! What a revelation.

Well, this is a brief explanation of what I think are the vital links among intellect, emotion, and humor. Humor is a way to channel the emotions that can hopefully and eventually drive the intellect to reason.