24 March 2015

"Humour and wonder can be a double act"

Man’s a phenomenon, one knows not what,
And wonderful beyond all wondrous measure. 
[Byron's] knowingly unknowing way of seeing things is not really—or not only—felt as a predicament, but also as an energising pleasure, something akin to Camus’s sense of the absurd in The Myth of Sisyphus, born of the confrontation between a human need to understand things and the recalcitrance of the world to human understanding. ‘Living’, Camus notes, ‘is keeping the absurd alive.’ Indeed, the absurd is a commitment to a certain style of life; ‘one does not discover the absurd without being tempted to write a manual of happiness.’ Should the manual ever be written, what its author might be tempted to say is that wonder, like its close relation the absurd, acknowledges the maze inside amazement, but without implying that a removal from the maze would always be desirable. Part of what feels funny (sometimes darkly, sometimes lightly funny) about wonder is the feeling that puzzlement may sponsor plenitude.
  from The Funny Thing About Trees by Matthew Bevis

Image: Apollo and Daphne by Antonio del Pollaiolo, circa 1470 (Wikipedia). Bevis quotes Tom Lubbock: ‘the picture gives no impression of gradual, graceful, organic transformation. The fleeing nymph raises her arms in alarm and appeal, and they just go whom! ...tree!   with a flourish like a conjurer's bouquet.’

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