The Punch Line; the unifying principle.

eleven's picture
| | | | | |
puchline as unifying principle


  JOKES usually have three main parts to them. Here is an example:

Buddha walks into a pizza restaurant and says, ‘Make me one with everything.’

   The first part of that joke is Buddha. The second part is the pizza restaurant. The third part is the punch line. The first part is ‘supermundane,’ the second is ‘mundane,’ and the third part links the two inside itself.

   The punch line is the most important, and it always serves this function of ‘fusing’ the previous parts into a surprising unity. The surprise causes laughter.

   A Woodey Allen classic:

   “This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, 'Doc, my brother's crazy, he thinks he's a chicken.' And the doctor says, 'Well why don't you turn him in?' and the guy says, 'I would, but I need the eggs.'”

   The first situation presented is that the man who walks into the office is perfectly sane, and that his brother—a human, not a chicken—is deluded. The second situation presented is the delusion of the brother or the brother’s version of reality (that he is a chicken).

   The punchline unites the two brothers, and realities, into agreement (surprisingly).

   Sometimes they are delivered differently: “A guy walks into a bar … and is concussed for half an hour.” The ‘linking part’ here is actually the first line. The one sentence contains two (possible) meanings, one assumed. The next line separates the two and reveals the other, not-assumed meaning.    

   In poetry there is something called a ‘conceit’ which is attributed to the metaphysical poets. Here is a famous example from John Donne:

 'Oh stay! three lives in one flea spare

Where we almost, yea more than married are.

This flea is you and I, and this

Our marriage-bed and marriage-temple is.'

What it depicts is a couple in love, who are both bitten by a flea. The couple romanticizes the incident, noting that their blood is fused and united into a third life, the flea. The flea is therefore a symbol of their unity.

   Punch lines perform a similar function to Donne’s flea. These three parts of jokes show three factors that exist in phenomena generally. Ernest Wood, a theosophist, speaks of this occult trinity from a Hindu perspective in his book, The Seven Rays:

   “[T]here are three principles to be discerned, called tamas, rajas and satva, translatable as matter, energy and law. Ancient and modern scientists have equally discovered these three in that one, and have also observed their inseparability. They are principles of matter; not properties, but states, of material being, and a body can exhibit them in different degrees at different times, as consciousness can employ will, or love or thought, though they are always present to some extent.”

   Gurdjieff talks of three principles in nature too, calling them the ‘Holy-Affirming,’ the ‘Holy-Denying,’ and the ‘Holy-Reconciling.’ Alice A. Bailey talks of ‘form, quality and purpose.’ Of course, in spiritual literature we have the idea of ‘spirit, soul and personality,’ or life, consciousness and mind. The personality itself contains three: mind, emotions and body. 

   From this perspective, the United Nations is a ‘punch line’. Inside it are such different nations with such different agendas that to think of them as united would seem absurd. But, this linking principle is how to resolve them.

   Religion used to be a ‘punch line’—one structure and institution that brought different people together in a community. When the world got larger, and religion became a separator of people, a new linking principle was needed. Freemasonry did this to some extent, being a meeting place of all major religious persuasions. Theosophy did a similar function, being that members are encouraged to keep their previous religious beliefs freely when joining.

   Then there became a duality between religion and science, one believing and one disbelieving. Masonry, again, historically provided reconciliation within; the craft encourages both, and sees them as two pillars holding the same building up. Similar too is theosophy and other esoteric organizations devoted to scientific as much as mystic discovery. The first users of the scientific method were arguably the Brotherhood of The Rosy Cross, or the Rosicrucians: Christians.

   Mahatma Gandhi was India’s ‘punch line,’ uniting Muslims and Hindus.

   Families are ‘punch lines’ that unite the young and old, and both sexes. 


   Christ and Hercules represented this ‘middle principle’. Both were the child of a ‘heavenly’ father, and a mortal mother, linking both worlds. The mythological beasts of Greek mythology often were ‘punch lines’ in themselves. The griffon is the unification of the king of the air (eagle) and the king of the earth (lion).   

Whenever there is an impasse, the reconciling principle is missing. A poor worker may be frustrated over a lack of power in his community; he reconciles this with education and qualifications. Another fellow is stumped by how long it will take to get a message across town. He reconciles this with a fax machine. The fax machine is not funny because it is neither surprising nor unlikely, and it is practically needed. The punch line of a joke is not needed in a practical sense, and it is unexpected.

   It might be true that to compare serious organizations like the U.N., religion and science to punch lines in jokes is absurd. I don’t deny it. This article is hilarious.