Irony Font

If I write “This is a note that no-one will read” on a piece of paper, then burn it, then it becomes true. If I write “This is a blog that no-one reads” in a blog post it is true up to the point that someone reads it, at which point it becomes false.It is therefore an entirely ridiculous thing for me to write. I have no way of knowing if it will be true or false, and certainly no say or control in the matter.

Common sense suggests that we should not care unduly about things over which we have no control. This is a horrid over-simplification, but this idea is central to Buddhism, that ultimately we have very little control at all and too much “attachment” is unhealthy. I think most people understand that they are ultimately solely responsible for their own happiness, and not really responsible for anyone else’s. But on a day to day basis, the waters are constantly muddied. There is a tension between caring and not caring, or at least there is for me. It is in these conflicts and contradictions that I struggle with the impossibility of being human.

My posts are riddled with nonsense and contradictions. I’m happy to contradict myself to try and express that conflicted nature of being alive. Poetry does this really well. Prose can be a little clumsy, as I am sure mine is at times.

I didn’t have an over-riding theme for this blog when I started to write it. But having mused about “honest liars” yesterday, I seem to keep getting stuck in ideas of contradiction, both in ourselves and how we deal with it in others.

It is often said that we need an “irony font” because it can be so difficult to accurately flag up nuance in purely textual communication. What struck me this morning while I was thinking about all this was that we already have one, and it is called poetry. As soon as you see a poem, it has been signalled that what you are about to read should not be taken literally. It is similar to “comedy”, in that when you see a person on a stage and have been pre-warned that what he or she says is going to be “funny”, you hear their words in a different way to how you would if someone just came up to you in the street and said them. Stewart Lee plays on this idea of “I’m only joking but I’m not” really well, especially in his wonderful dissection of Top Gear.

He, in fact, does not blog or tweet. His stated reason for that is that 90% of what he says on stage is untrue, a character, but his material only “works” if the audience wonders whether he might actually be telling the truth. Therefore he does not want to blog in a self-disclosing way that would remove that doubt altogether. When I heard him say that, I remained unsure whether or not I could actually believe him when he asserted that 90% of his act is lies, or whether he really is “just joking”. Which is his point.


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