Wednesday, February 17, 2010

kids, clowns, and social situations

“Travel…entitles you to meet interesting people whom you otherwise would never meet even if you laid traps or advertised for them. Not only do you meet them, but you also unmeet them…As there is so little time, bodies in motion tend to drop their guard and immediately get on with their stories” (Millman, 5).

Much like traveling, service has the potential to bring all kinds of people together even if encounters are short-lived. It is often the constraints of time that force individuals toward more concise, yet enriching experiences. Brief encounters may then prove to be unhindered by the limits of time, and may in fact allow for experiences that would not be found amongst those closest to an individual. What I mean to say is that social situations are clearly different according to the individuals involved and the dynamic of the given group or pairing. We allow different parts of ourselves to be expressed according to the respective social situation given.

If an individual finds themselves in the company of his or her most intimate friends, the social situation will differ from the same individual’s experience with new or distant acquaintances. There is sure to be a more formal relationship between individuals who are not intimates, and so each will uphold and look to social convention or tradition more so than they would in the company of close friends. This inherently provides the space for many different instances of humor.

Douglas suggests “that the joke form rarely lies in the utterance alone, but that it can be identified in the total social situation” (148). I would say that the joke form rests on an individual’s ability to assess a social situation so as to ascertain meaning, or humor, or both as well as his or her delivery. But Douglas’s concentration on social situations and the impact they have on jokes is smart and worth speculating.

Though my service-learning (Higher Achievement) has not yet had the chance to begin with the snow, I would think that kids occupy a middle ground in relation to social situations and the appropriate ways to conduct oneself accordingly. Kids are always testing social situations, seeing what they can and cannot get away with. They are in the process of learning what different situations call for or ask of them. The dynamic between a student, particularly young students, and a teacher or authoritative figure will differ from the relationship between a student and a fellow classmate, for example. But even though young students are inclined to act appropriately according to the situation, they are also more likely and willing to blur the lines a bit more than an older individual.

Though we touched upon the Fool a bit in class, Turner takes up the character in his work as well. If the clown or fool has the “license” or ability to speak, to speak truth, then he is somewhat cut off or isolated even from many social situations (though he may simultaneously often be found at their center). This freedom ties the fool to the divine or the sacred and is empowering even when the character may seem anything but powerful. Not to suggest that kids are fools, but there seems to be a likeness between the two. Young people are often corrected if something they say is deemed inappropriate, but are also permitted to make the mistakes more so than older individuals because they are still learning.

If a joke is a play upon form as Douglas says it is and “brings into relation disparate elements in such a way that one accepted pattern is challenged by the appearance of another which in some way was hidden in the first,” young students understand this and are constantly challenging and playing with the balance of power; often coming to the conclusion that such patterns are pointless (150). Different social situations allow for particular jokes, and kids, often times, are more willing to test the social situations they find themselves in; when a social situation is found to be unforgiving or unreceptive to a particular joke, there is humor to be found because that challenge of power or practice has disrupted some order.

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