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Unformatted text preview: necity.com/phantom1/books2/c._s._lewis_-_the_screwtape_letters.htm 2/07/2008 THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS Page 12 of 34 Everything is clearly going very well. am specially glad to hear that the two new friends have now made him
acquainted with their whole set. All these, as I find from the record office, are thoroughly reliable people; steady,
consistent scoffers and worldlings who without any spectacular crimes are progressing quietly and comfortably towards
our Father's house. You speak of their being great laughers. I trust this does not mean that you are under the impression
that laughter as such is always in our favour. The point is worth some attention.
I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy. You will see the first among
friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday. Among adults some pretext in the way of Jokes is usually provided,
but the facility with which the smallest witticisms produce laughter at such a time shows that they are not the real cause.
What that real cause is we do not know. Something like it is expressed in much of that detestable art which the humans
call Music, and something like it occurs in Heaven—a meaningless acceleration in the rhythm of celestial experience,
quite opaque to us. Laughter of this kind does us no good and should always be discouraged. Besides, the phenomenon
is of itself disgusting and a direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell.
Fun is closely related to Joy—a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us. It can
sometimes be used, of course, to divert humans from something else which the Enemy would like them to be feeling or
doing: but in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other
The Joke Proper, which turns on sudden perception of incongruity, is a much more promising field. I am not thinking
primarily of indecent or bawdy humour, which, though much relied upon by second-rate tempters, is often
disappointing in its results. The truth is that humans are pretty clearly divided on this matter into two classes. There are
some to whom "no passion is as serious as lust" and for whom an indecent story ceases to produce lasciviousness
precisely in so far as it becomes funny: there are others in whom laughter and lust are excited at the same moment and
by the same things. The first sort joke about sex because it gives rise to many incongruities: the second cultivate
incongruities because they afford a pretext for talking about sex. If your man is of the first type, bawdy humour will not
help you—I shall never forget the hours which I wasted (hours to me of unbearable tedium) with one of my early
patients in bars and smoking-rooms before I learned this rule. Find out which group the patient belongs to—and see that
he does not find out.
The real use of Jokes or Humour is in quite a different direction, and it is specially promising among the English who
take their "sense of humour" so seriously that a deficiency in this sense is almost the only deficiency at which they feel
shame. Humour is for them the all-cons...
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This note was uploaded on 02/07/2014 for the course MIS 304 taught by Professor Mejias during the Spring '07 term at University of Arizona- Tucson.
- Spring '07