Tuesday, April 3, 2012

“What’s So Funny About Buddhism?” — cartoonist David Sipress explains

What’s So Funny About Buddhism? 
By David Sipress
It begins with language. Words like “nothing” and “self” are rich in comic possibility when they are transposed from the Buddhist context into our Western context. The space between these two worlds is where the funniness lives. For example, there’s my cartoon of a guy in a meditation class asking the teacher, “Exactly what is this ‘nothing’ I’ve been hearing so much about?” Or the woman in another cartoon who introduces herself to the meditation teacher:

Juxtaposition and incongruity are the working material of cartoon humor. I love taking the richness and ambiguity of the language of Buddhism and juxtaposing it with the more mundane aspects of Western popular culture. I recently drew a cartoon of two people watching a TV show called, “The Amazing Race to Enlightenment.” The announcer says, “This week, can Jim and Suzy achieve right mindfulness? And will Barb and Candy be eliminated for relentless clinging to the self?”
Beyond language, there is the notion of paradox. Paradoxes—which of course, are all about juxtaposition and incongruity– are funny. Our struggles to grasp Buddhist ideas about what we call, “reality” — about its fleeting nature — ideas that lead to an understanding that opposites can be equally true and real at the same time since neither is actually “real” since there is really no such thing as “reality” — oy vey! — all this is terribly confusing to the average western mind, and therefore, fertile terrain for the cartoonist. One of the great New Yorker cartoon tropes is the In box and the Out box, sitting on a businessman’s desk. I did one of a Buddhist monk who has only one box on his desk — the box is labeled, In Out....

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