In Reflections on the Death of Mishima, Henry Miller, after singing the praises of both the Japanese author who put an end to his life with a ritual suicide by seppuku (abdomen-cutting) and nipponica in general, noticed: “His utter seriousness, it seems to me, stood in Mishima’s way.” In itself, the observation sounds like a joke. Mihisma, dead serious (indeed) about everything, would have disapproved vehemently. Humor has been frowned upon for centuries, in fact millennia, in our own western tradition, too.
Plato censored the enjoyment of comedy in Philebus as a form of scorn. “Taken generally,” he wrote, “the ridiculous is a certain kind of evil, specifically a vice.” In Rhetoric, Aristotle stated that wit was educated insolence, while in the Nicomachean Ethics he admonished: “Most people enjoy amusement and jesting more than they should … a jest is a kind of mockery, and lawgivers forbid some kinds of mockery—perhaps they ought to have forbidden some kinds of jesting.”
Needless to say, early Christian thinkers objected to humor and laughter, too, a trend that continued through the Middle Ages.… Read the rest