Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Senate of the World


Prospective Chapter from Cosmopolis Earth

The Senate of the World

Thoughts about Panorthosia, Chapter Fifteen

Chapter 15 of Panorthosia:


"Concerning the necessity of correctly establishing all our constitutions once they are correctly set up, by means of three supreme Courts or Tribunals as guardians of the age of happiness; and the form which these ought to take."


In Panorthosia, especially in the 15th Chapter, Comenius wrestles with a paradox within the very idea of leadership in a united world.


Clearly, as global order spreads, knowledge will spread until it is, in the words of prophesy, "like waters upon the sea." As everybody becomes educated and enlightened, there will be less need for leaders in the traditional sense. Each and all will be leaders and followers unto themselves.




Some think that this implies anarchy, rule by no government at all. Indeed, Comenius takes this prospect very seriously, since it is central to Christian teaching. He cites Matt 13:8-10,


"But be not ye called Rabbi, for one is master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man father upon the earth, for only one is your father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called master, for one is your master, even Christ." (cited Ch. 15, para 9, p. 218)


For Comenius, though, this forbids not government itself but any "one sole form of rule, worship or wisdom amongst men. For he forbids the use on earth of the title master, father or leader in reference to the position of scholars, churchmen and politicians." (para 9) The three institutions, the college, the consistory and the dicastery, then, are meant to fill in the "leadership gap" opened up by this dictum.



By removing absolute, personal power, the compulsion of one person over another, we do not end power completely. Indeed, the rule of law is only supreme when personal compulsion is subjugated. The implication is not anarchy, rule of nobody, but rather rule of spirit, the divine power of love. It is true that spirit is invisible, but, like the wind, it is nonetheless a real force, as anyone who encounters a tornado or hurricane can attest. Rule by God, although unseen and incomprehensible, is quite the reverse of rule by nobody.




Comenius concludes, therefore, that we should learn from the principle of "no Rabbi, no father, no master" by ceasing lazily to delegate power to others. This is both unnecessary and a cause of corruption. Instead we can "unite in brotherhood" under the rule of one God. I would add that this same egalitarian teaching is also to be found in Plato (especially in "The Laws") and the Qur’an (); thus Christians, Muslims and secular non-religious believers, comprising over half the human race, accept this egalitarian inclination already.


The paradox of which I spoke at first is not that real power is invisible, or that power is most effective as a consensus arising from unity in brotherhood. Rather the paradox is that notwithstanding all this, there is still a crucial role for leaders -- as long as they stay leaders of thought and do not degrade into leaders of men who transgress their limits.


"It is absurd for kings to be ruled, or for leaders to be led by other men. The real sun does not need oil poured into it. The real fountain does not need water poured into it." (Panorthosia, Ch. 24, para 1, p. 111)


Leaders of thought are essential because ideas remain as mere words until they are backed up by action. The best constitution soon falls apart without vigilant care from guardians who stand watch over it. Comenius cites the example of the Israelites, who having conquered the Promised Land, turned to farming, forgot soldiering and in time were ousted by the resurgent peoples they had conquered before.


Leaders, even in an egalitarian order, need to have everyone's attention in order to show the way and lead by example; they require real influence in order to uphold some ideas over others. This is now often called the "tragedy of the commons," but it was well known in the Middle Ages, being summed up in the axiom of logic that "Everybody's business is nobody's business." (Ch. 15, para 3, p. 216)




As the parable of the lamp under a bushel teaches, leaders have to shine into the darkest places if they are to have their intended effect, which is enlightenment.


"... the most effective remedy available is the appointment of regular guardians as soon as our sacred constitution is established, who shall have permanent responsibility for certifying that schools enlighten men's minds, churches inspire their hearts, and parliaments maintain national peace and for preventing errors from creeping in or developing." Comenius, Panorthosia, Ch. 15, para 7, p. 217


This new sort of leader operates on his or her own, autonomously and creatively, moved only by the Holy Spirit. He or she seeks out areas where his or her expertise is most needed, studies the situation and shares the discoveries openly with other such leaders. A non-monolithic leader, then, does not work as part of a visible bureaucracy or hierarchy.


In fact, the reader of chapter fifteen of Panorthosia, which describes in general terms the amorphous but still organized structure of the three Comenian institutions, is struck by the similarity between them and England's Royal Society. The most eminent scientists are appointed to this body but work apart, reporting their findings in regular conferences. The Royal Society is the model for scientific organizations in most nations around the world. Then one remembers that the Royal Society was originally inspired by Comenius's writings. Only in politics and religion are there no equivalent bodies that appoint the most prominent experts and bring them together to report on the results of their free enquiry.


There are, however, important differences. The criteria for choosing members of these "royal societies" are much broader. For example, someone chosen for the College of Light would not only be a brilliant scientist or educator, he or she also has to have the virtues taught in the other two institutions. A scholar,


"who is at the same time pious and capable will be a better director of Scholars than one who is simply a Scholar, and similarly a capable politician who is at the same time wise and pious will be a better director than one who is simply a politician without wisdom and piety." (Panorthosia, Ch. 15, para 19, pp. 220-221)




Another important distinction is that Comenius's free guardians are organized not only nationally but on a global scale. Members of national colleges elect a "president" from among themselves, who serves in the same way on a continental basis, in Asia, Europe, Africa, and so forth. Eventually these presidents come together to "constitute the senate of the world." (Panorthosia, para 15, p. 222); here they share findings in a conference held every ten or twenty-five years.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Darrell Elmer Rodgers - "Seven"

In July 2010 I recorded and produced a song called "Seven". It's a tribute to the Baha'is imprisoned in Iran for no other reason than their religious belief.

Particularly, it refers to the seven Iranian Baha'is imprisoned for their leadership role in ministering to the needs of other oppressed Baha'is there.

Recently we received word that conditions have worsened, so I have made this video of myself performing along with my own recorded tracks, just to draw attention once again to the plight of these angelic souls.

Laura Harley Talks About The Baha'i Fast & Sings A Prayer

Fastin' Time song

President's Naw Ruz Message (Mentions Baha'i)

The Esslemont Rap By Blair Cameron and Nadim Merrikh HD

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Chapter from Persons Beyond Borders, My Book in Progress


Reflecting the Nature of Things

A Grand Simplification





Throughout his life, John Amos Comenius kept to his vision of a grand unification of knowledge through wisdom. In his early career, Comenius worked out revolutionary educational reforms eliciting learning not from rote or force but direct observations by students. Knowledge, he believed, is not a commodity that can be passed on from teacher to student -- in fact borrowing causes corruption, passivity and, in the end, contempt for knowledge. Instead, he sought to instill curiosity, inquiry and love for learning. Efficient learning comes from deep within our nature; it is the outcome of seeking the whole truth in one world, while serving others and worshipping one God. A teacher's role is to speed and enliven this process, never to violate the mind's right to freedom by dictating to it.


Comenius advocated the object lesson as a way of promoting independent search. He may not have been the first to use this teaching technique, but he certainly developed and popularized it. In an object lesson a teacher holds up an ordinary object, such as a pen or a candlestick, and solicits observations from members of the class. From there lessons are drawn about morality, politics and science. Similarly, a century before Rousseau’s Emile, Comenius proposed that teachers leave their classrooms once in a while and take pupils out to learn in forests, streets and industrial sites. On these field trips, he encouraged students to cast aside trite, second-hand learning and observe, drawing conclusions based not only on what they had been reading but on what their eyes and ears told them.


Panorthosia takes these educational innovations to their ultimate conclusion. It would erect an entire world order where everybody learns and teaches through direct experience. In order to make each step as universal as possible, and, as we might now say, to rid the mind of cultural baggage, he advocated starting with a grand project of simplification. This radical simplifying activity would not be restricted to one worldview -- this was undoubtedly one point on which Comenius and Rene Descartes, another advocate of simplification, disagreed about in the face-to-face debate they had with one another. For Comenius, systematic simplifying is the best approach not only to science and mathematics but also of faith and policy. In fact, it should aim at setting all three on an even footing.


"Let our Philosophy be simplified, provided that it satisfies moderate minds and circumstances. Let our Religion be simplified, provided that it satisfies God, the source of simplicity, and men of upright conscience. Let our Political System be simplified, provided that it serves its purpose of peacefulness in human affairs." (Panorthosia II, Ch. 10, para 3, p. 152)


As simplification advances, knowledge would then surely become public property, not the exclusive domain of elites. For the first time knowledge would be free, and would serve liberal ends. The expert's high calling is to serve humanity by aiding this project, not by obstructing it, as was all too common among Comenius's scholastic peers.





Comenius did not deny that this demands unprecedented responsibility from experts, especially, though not exclusively, from experts in the three pivotal specialties, natural philosophy (science and education), politics and religion. These professionals must eschew all obfuscation and do everything possible to welcome all into their inner sanctum. Their aim must be to make everyone the best that they can be by qualifying as an amateur philosopher, politician and theologian.


The simplification project needs to set its sights even higher, though. Even more fundamental than science, religion and politics is language itself. If we cannot communicate with one another, none of these can exist, important as they may well be. As long as humans speak multiple languages, the benefits of education, of political progress and religious reconciliation can never have their full benefit. The language barrier, more than anything else -- even borders, geography and primitive transportation technology -- blocks freedom of movement and freedom of intercourse among peoples. A common language is absolutely necessary for the cosmopolitan outlook.


In the following paragraph from the final chapter of Panorthosia, Comenius demonstrates that agreement upon a common world language is not only a scientific and political necessity, it is a religious duty as well.


"If we are given a universal language, and it is adopted by all nations, the world will become accessible to all its inhabitants, as there will be nothing to stand in the way of anyone who wishes to travel abroad and teach or be taught in any of its climates. For if all men understand one another, they will all be as one nation, one household, and one school of God. So at last the meaning of the following prophecies will be revealed: 'All the land shall be turned as a plain,' (Zechariah 14:10); and 'Thou shalt not see a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive, and of a foreign tongue that thou canst not understand' (or as others translate it, 'in which there is no wisdom') (Isaiah 33:19 and 'I will gather all nations and tongues' (Isaiah 64:18), and 'All the nations were of one language, and so they were gathered together again after the Lord scattered them abroad with confusion of language' (Genesis 11:1, 7, 8), when the Lord shall begin to build up Zion and to appear in His glory (Psalm 102:16, 17, 19, 22, 23)." (Panorthosia, Ch. 26, Para 7, p. 157)


From Wisdom to Pansophy





Beyond agreeing upon a universal language, the project of simplified knowledge can be summed up in one word, wisdom. Wisdom, Comenius believed, is the main practical lesson to be learned from the Bible, as well as classical philosophy, the natural world and that of politics. Wisdom instills willing acceptance that good changes come from the nature of things; they are not an arbitrary imposition of human will or the whim of an elite.

World order will arise from an underlying "parallelism of Philosophy, Politics, and Religion..." (Panorthosia, Ch. 13, para 12, p. 204) Our vision of this parallelism, like the observations of a student, conditions us within before we can inform the world. Be it scientific, political or religious, wisdom has a common,.


"purpose of kindling in men's minds one full light whose rays are undivided, and therefore it is Universal Light in which everyone may see all things just as they are, and in so doing produce antidotes for error and hallucination, and cures for all the ills of Church and State, so that darkness no longer has any place in our affairs, since we are all guided towards the fountains of light, wherein there is no darkness." (Panorthosia, Ch. 11, para 2, pp. 175-176)


The nature of wisdom is such that a wise person is, by definition, Homo Universalis, a polymath or generalist who aspires to grasp all things, not just a segmented part of reality. Once enough leading members of society become wise, teachers will learn to teach wisdom in schools. Once they succeed in that, each new generation will come ever closer to wisdom. Eventually, society will cross a tipping point where wisdom becomes a universal aspiration, the ruling principle of every matter, big or small. This condition Comenius called pansophy, or universal wisdom.





Under pansophism, the full potential of each human will finally be realized. This leap forward will make all knowledge available to all seekers and tear down every ivory tower of knowledge and privilege. The people will no longer be distracted by translators and middlemen; they will be mature enough to wield their own power responsibly. Comenius compared this epistemic transition to the difference between an ordinary key and a master or skeleton key, which is designed to open any door in the building.


"What is the difference between Philosophy and Pansophy? Surely it is that between the part and the whole; just as if one man who lived in a castle had separate keys for each of the rooms, and another had only a single key which opened them all." (Panorthosia, Ch. 11, para 22, pp. 184-185)


As a by-product of having Homo Universalis in the majority, pansophism would encourage universal engagement in the tremendous task of minding the entire planet. Earth would be a true global democracy. Unlike the ideological approaches that have been tried and failed, pansophy, by walking the tightrope of parallel worldviews, would accomplish the otherwise impossible feat of maximizing both freedom and equality.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Knights of AHW1

Follow the Instructions


By John Taylor; 2011 Mar 06, Ala 05, 167 BE


Follow the Instructions, by Jenabe E. Caldwell, Indian Publishing Trust, Baha’i Publishing Trust, New Delhi, 1998


A certain Baha'i publishing trust noted that I am a blogger a few years ago and sent me a letter in which they promised to send me a newly published book, my choice of three options, if I would review it on Amazon and one other site whose name escapes me. I chose my book and although it was not without merit overall I was not pleased with it. I had more negative opinions than positive ones. I chose a "silence is best" policy and did not review it (another reason for not writing about it is that I could not get more than fifty pages into it). Anyway, I felt slightly bribed. If that ever happens again I think I will refuse the offer, book lover that I am. If the New York Times insists that its reviewers give back or otherwise dispose of whatever product they write about, I think that a Baha'i should adopt an even stricter standard.


One book that I bought (with my own money) last summer is "Follow the Instructions" by Jenabe Calwell. I met Jenabe in 1975 in Alaska. He was a very inspiring speaker -- do not take my word for it, you can hear a podcast of an interview with him from "Baha'i Perspective." Anyway, when I saw this book, published in India and very reasonably priced. Naturally, I snapped it up. I think this, if any, would be a good book for the institutions to purchase and hand out to every believer who is involved in more than casual teaching work.





Now I know what older Baha'is will immediately think when they hear the name "Jenabe Caldwell." He is just so old school, they will say. Caldwell was the leading "evangelist" of the quasi-revival movements, officially termed mass entry, during the late 60's and early 70's. He tells the story from the inside, and most of his stories are very inspiring. Clearly, he was learning as he was going, and he was doing all he could to stop the mass exits that followed the mass entry. We have got to pay close attention to what Caldwell says, since he speaks from several decades of experience in direct teaching, in leading and inspiring mass teaching projects. What he says is absolutely invaluable.


I got up to chapter nine in the book, called "Tender Loving Care, (TLC)" and stopped reading for several weeks. It is not that what he said was bad or anything like that. It was just stunningly thought provoking and stopped me cold. The chapter consists of an old letter he had written just after the event; it describes how he met with disappointment organizing a teaching initiative in Mexico. It is a kind rambling letter, no inspiration or literary glitter, but the implications are mind boggling. What it describes is this:


He carefully nurtured and involved two believers for an upcoming project. One of them had been inactive and the other was a new declarant, as I recall. Caldwell was called away somewhere else but he sent these two believers off to help out with an urgent teaching task in a distant city. They had gone way out of their way to get there at all. When they arrived, essentially they were snubbed by the believers who had been sent to meet them and settle them into the project. Passively snubbed, but stubbed nonetheless.


Understandably, they went home soon after and that was that for them. Caldwell concludes that the believers need special training at meeting, greeting and making people feel welcome. If we do not give Baha'is this training, the entryway into this Faith will stay a revolving door, pushing as many people out as it lets in. Unless we get this training, disappointments will keep happening and the Faith will never grow.





For weeks, as I say, I have been mulling over what Caldwell says about special training. He hit the nail on the head with his point, commonplace as it is. If we are ever to get past where we were in the 60's we need to offer TLC to anybody and everybody who crosses the threshold into the faith. To use the current jargon, it has to be part of the culture, it has to be systematic. I think of all the times I have walked into Baha'i meetings in a big city and the same thing happened. Passive snubbing. Even when I am well known to just about the whole community, I can walk in, sit down, listen, and when the meeting ends walk out without more than a few nods and how are you fine how are yous and that is it. I come and go like a thief in the night. As long as anybody can go out of a Baha'i meeting and walk a block away to a local church and be greeted with at least a handshake when I walk in and a handshake when I walk out, who do you think is going to attract more people?


I have been going over in memory the training in the Ruhi institutes and trying to think of how they correct this TLC deficit that Caldwell points to. Maybe institutes do in very general terms, but what he is talking about is specific training in the specific skill of meeting, greeting and offering hospitality. This is just what every minister does at every church door after every Sunday service. It is more than that, of course, but I am talking about the bare minimum. As Caldwell puts it, TLC. Honestly I cannot think of anything in Books One to Six, or Book Eight, that addresses this need directly. Maybe my readers can point to something.


What we need is for every LSA in big communities to assign a certain number of community members to get special meet, greet and hospitality training. Use them like knights to guard the doors at every large meeting. Keep the training up constantly, in the same way that a cop or teacher has to regularly take courses keep his or her training current.


Call them the knights of the crimson book, or use Caldwell's term, a "TLC committee," or call the group the "AHW1 Society." AHW1, of course, is the first Arabic Hidden Word, which promises a different sovereignty, a sovereignty of love, to anybody who shows forth a "pure, kindly and radiant heart." Let the training start with careful study, a la Ruhi, of the first talk in Paris Talks, the one which lays out everything that "greeter training" is aiming for, that is, taking people into your heart, your home, inviting them to stay, no matter what their background, without worrying if they steal your cutlery, just do it, spiritually. Unless we start such a program going, and do it soon, the present program for mass entry will get no further than its predecessors did in the 1960's and 70's.


Abdu'l-Baha Himself told the following story illustrating His opinion that this factor, the effective, skilled and assiduous promotion of a cause by its followers, is a Sine Qua Non of success. The popularity of a group is not necessarily tied to its truth or real worth. Conversely, a worthy cause, even that of God Himself, can be unfairly neglected if its lovers and followers are neglectful.


"Nur Ali-Shah was rejected by both the government and the people. He became homeless and an exile. He could not live even in the holy shrines because of the transgression of the religious authorities against him. At the end, he died in Baghdad.





"A few of his servants, who were living in extreme poverty and adversity, were very sad on account of his calamities and homelessness. With much sincerity they began to commemorate his name. Since they did this with great sensitivity and devotion, each one of them became very famous, honourable and respected among all the people. Everyone was amazed at this. Even many of the ministers of the king and the members of the clergy became their close friends and devotees. All of this took place, despite the fact that his cause was not very important." (Stories Told by Abdu'l-Baha, #111, pp. 120-121)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Haldimand Monthly Fireside Notice

Baha’i Principles Series

A Key to Loving

This book, A Key to Loving, by local author Betty Frost discusses ideas from the Baha’i Writings, like: “The first principle of divine guidance is love,” and, “The most important feat in this day is harmony and agreement.”

Featured Speaker:  Betty Frost





Wednesday, March 9, 2011

8 PM


Garfield Disher Room,

Dunnville Branch,

Haldimand Public Library

March discussion


Philosopher’s Café




This month’s topic of discussion:

“Knowledge and World View”


Thursday, March 10

6:30 p.m. in the Library’s meeting room



Every second Thursday of the month. Everyone is welcome. Drop in for a lively discussion. There is no fee to participate. No formal philosophy training required; real life experience desired.


Wainfleet Township Public Library

19M9 Park Street, P.O. Box 118

Wainfleet, ON L0S 1V0

905-899-1277 www.wainfleetlibrary.ca

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Sharing a Show


The Ricky Gervais Show


I enjoy the comic genius of Ricky Gervais. His depiction of an impervious, self-contradicting boss man in the original British version of the TV program "The Office," is absolutely hilarious. You listen to this egotistical maniac with a mixture of horror and dismay. How can anybody put his foot that far into his mouth and not suffocate? Gervais performance is based on an actual boss that he says he had once, but the type is a universal one.




Anybody who has ever entered the workplace has no choice but to meet such a manager, an absolute idiot who talks far longer than his thoughts can carry him, twisting himself around his own superficial jargon and catch words, imagining himself a poetic master, the sort of speaker who would be mocked, ridiculed and laughed off the stage under any circumstances other than the one he is in, that is, standing before a captive audience of underlings. He is not so much sadistic as utterly clueless; on one level he knows that his listeners depend for their paychecks on taking what he says serious heed, but he honestly thinks that he is an entertainer, a guru, a beloved friend to those under him, and that he can disregard every rhetorical convention, including internal logic.


His performance in the movie "The Invention of Lying" takes second place to the utter freshness and originality of his brilliant idea of a story about a world where the ability to deceive has been somehow removed from the gene pool. A normal schlep like him, or, I have to admit, myself, who is capable of deception, would pretty much rule. He could write his own ticket, without even having to lie well. It is a charming movie, a good one to watch for those who in their institutes are memorizing the Master's observation that "truthfulness is the foundation of character..."


Anyway, I heard about the podcasts Gervais was having with two of his producers and was not particularly interested. I saw the promos for the animated version that came out of it, and I remained unimpressed. The series, the Ricky Gervais Show, is now into its second season, and is available, thanks to my father's paying the entire cable bill here, on "on demand." In a moment of boredom, I watched a recent episode or two from the second season and remained unimpressed.




For one thing, the British street slang they used was off-putting. One word brought on some nostalgia though, "mental," in the sense of, "You don't have to go all mental about it," meaning, "do not take this to an extreme." I remember in grade school hearing and using the word casually, then in high school in the 1970's the expression disappeared. I do not know if it was the fact that "mental" was part Canadian argot but not of the American slang that dominates the media, or if "mental" was a victim of political correctness, or, most probably, both, but I have not heard "mental" being used like that for decades.


Finally, one day I gave the Gervais show one more chance. Then, as I was watching the episode, it hit me. I do not know if it was the mood I was in or what, but suddenly I started laughing uproariously. I could not stop laughing until the entire half hour was over.


Definitely, the Ricky Gervais Show is an acquired taste.

I realized that at this point in my life I need a daily humor boost, so I went back to episode one, season one and took a ration of an episode or two every day. It gave a lift to my day to have my sides split and roll on the ground laughing. The kids were unimpressed. They could not fathom why I would listen to incomprehensible gibberish interspersed with non-sequential cartoon illustrations.


I noticed that season one started out with Gervais openly mocking the main subject of the show, "That round headed buffoon that is, Karl Pilkington." They read on air some of the letters and emails that they were getting, and it is pretty clear that sympathetic listeners were siding with the "round headed buffoon." In the second season Gervais clearly moderates his mocking attitude, and this actually improves the show considerably.


Where do my laughs come from? As I watch I sometimes wonder. I do like these three fellows. You cannot really laugh at somebody unless you like them. Okay, there are exceptions. I am thinking of a certain grotesque dictator right now who is going on air declaring war on his own people. I do not like him, but I do laugh, along with many others in the Arab world, when a journalist Autotunes his Gervais-like performance as big boss to rap lyrics. But generally speaking, laughter is a function of love, not hate.


Clearly, these are three buddies who hang around with one another even when they do not have to. They have feelings for each another that you can only call love, in spite of all the ribbing. That is the real secret, I think, of the belly laughs I am getting out of this. Such friendships among men are rarer here in North America than in Britain. This kind of laughter is not an outcome of wit or jokes but of fellowship. This is a fact of life that the insipid American sitcoms that infest commercial television forgot long ago. Here the sense of harmony and fellowship among these three men is real and palpable. The humor, once you catch on to it, is intense.


Anyway, in season two as the mockery moderates Karl Pilkington starts to flower into less of a buffoon than a sort of original thinker, a real poet in the raw. During Season One they had gone from a feature called "Monkey News" to a reading from Karl's diary. Gervais rightly recognizes these diary entries, written in block letters in a huge volume, as "one of the best diaries ever written, absolutely brilliant!"


Some people love animals and nature in soppy way, but Karl is more than that. He is also capable of being annoyed, frustrated and bothered by what he sees on his walks in natural surroundings. He observes the behavior of insects, mollusks and other animals with annoyance as well as wonder. I ask you, is that not a deeper sort of love than the sentimental, stereotypical observations of people like, well, myself, when I observe nature? It has got to love if you can react with the full gamut of emotions to the phenomena of nature.


Anyway, I was going through the second season when my eleven year old son Thomas took more than a few glances at the show. He especially liked Karl Pilkington's relationship to animals. It took him maybe three times longer to start to like the show, but now he is asking to see the show every morning.


I am now fielding questions like, "What is a bloke?"


So now I am going through the entire series with him a second time. There is profanity there, but nothing worse than he will hear if he sticks his head outside the door and listens to the voices in the street. It is not entirely as funny for me seeing it the second time, but, as Adam Smith says in the book he regarded as his masterpiece, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, (not the better known "Wealth of Nations"), one's pleasure in sharing a joy is almost as great, and in some ways greater, than it was the first time. I will give the last word to Smith.


I think what he says here explains why Karl Pilkington takes pleasure in this company of mockers (they sympathize with his annoyance little things in the world), even though he is the butt of almost every joke. Smith's observation also explains better than I have here why I cannot stop laughing every time I watch the Ricky Gervais Show.




"When we have read a book or poem so often that we can no longer find any amusement in reading it by ourselves, we can still take pleasure in reading it to a companion. To him it has all the graces of novelty; we enter into the surprise and admiration which it naturally excites in him, but which it is no longer capable of exciting in us; we consider all the ideas which it presents rather in the light in which they appear to him, than in that in which they appear to ourselves, and we are amused by sympathy with his amusement which thus enlivens our own.



"On the contrary, we should be vexed if he did not seem to be entertained with it, and we could no longer take any pleasure in reading it to him. It is the same case here. The mirth of the company, no doubt, enlivens our own mirth, and their silence, no doubt, disappoints us.

"But though this may contribute both to the pleasure which we derive from the one, and to the pain which we feel from the other, it is by no means the sole cause of either; and this correspondence of the sentiments of others with our own appears to be a cause of pleasure, and the want of it a cause of pain, which cannot be accounted for in this manner. The sympathy, which my friends express with my joy, might, indeed, give me pleasure by enlivening that joy: but that which they express with my grief could give me none, if it served only to enliven that grief.

"Sympathy, however, enlivens joy and alleviates grief. It enlivens joy by presenting another source of satisfaction; and it alleviates grief by insinuating into the heart almost the only agreeable sensation which it is at that time capable of receiving."

(Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments)