The first time an angel heard the devil’s laughter, he was dumbfounded. That happened at a feast in a crowded room, where the devil’s laughter, which is terribly contagious, spread from one person to another. The angel clearly understood that such laughter was directed against God and against the dignity of his works. He knew that he must react swiftly somehow, but felt weak and defenseless. Unable to come up with anything of his own, he aped his adversary. Opening his mouth, he emitted broken, spasmodic sounds in the higher reaches of his vocal range, but giving them an opposite meaning: whereas the devil’s laughter denoted the absurdity of things, the angel on the contrary meant to rejoice over how well ordered, wisely conceived, good and meaningful everything here below was.

Thus the angel and the devil faced each other and, mouths wide open, emitted nearly the same sounds, but each one’s noise expressed the absolute opposite of the other’s. And seeing the angel laugh, the devil laughed all the more, all the harder, and all the more blatantly, because the laughing angel was infinitely comical.

Laughable laughter is disastrous. Even so, the angels have gained something from it. They have tricked us with a semantic imposture. Their imitation of laughter and (the devil’s) original laughter are both called by the same name. Nowadays we don’t even realize that the same external display serves two absolutely opposed internal attitudes. There are two laughters, and we have no word to tell one from the other.

from Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

I am, of course, rooting for the devil here. Heehee. I remember reading this book while waiting for some documents at the Securities and Exchange Commission some years ago. Conjuring the scene where the devil and the angel faced each other trying to out-laugh the other, in my mind, was so funny I laughed out loud —to the surprise of the people sitting beside me at that time. I could only gesture at the book but they weren’t interested in that, they simply considered me a nut.

Today this reminds me of Kronk in the animated movie, The Emperor’s New Groove. When faced with a dilemma, Kronk’s shoulder angel and shoulder devil appears and —this being a GP movie— the angel’s advice triumphs. But not without making the angel seem ridiculous, trite, and ultimately boring— first.

I don’t think anyone would readily admit it, but aren’t we really drawn more to the devil? Ok, not meaning to scare anyone (including myself), so think Gary Larson’s The Far Side and its humorous depiction of Hell, Satan, the nerds in Hell…makes so much better copy di ba? Or Neil Gaiman’s Season of Mists where Lucifer simply abdicates his reign over Hell. He was simply tired of it all, Lucifer tells Dream. He does quit and decides to be a beach bum. In a later story of The Sandman where this story is intricately weaved (The Sandman is a comic book series), Lucifer has become a nightclub pianist— “…the only good nightclub pianist I’ve ever heard.”, says one character. He won’t play the song, “Memories”, though. A song which Lucifer finds “entirely devoid of interest. The melody is trite, while the awkward paraphrases of lesser Eliot poems in the lyrics are grating in the extreme.” How’s that for a reply to a song request?

I’m starting to stray big time, but I do think you get my drift. (But do read The Sandman series, it’s one hell of an experience.)

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