IN THE BEGINNING, (my god that is a strong start, but really), what could I give you that was innate of me?
I could find you a really cool rock or acorn, but when you held it up, would others see that it was an extension of me? No. What if it was really cool? Still no.
Maybe you’ve heard someone quote someone else, and you knew exactly who, even if you hadn’t heard that particular story before. That is because whatever it was, resonated uniquely of that person and their particular and recognizable way of expressing themselves. I can crinkle my nose in a certain way, I can give you a hug that belongs just between us, but that can’t be shared outside that moment, or identified as mine if you tried to share it with others.
The first unique gift would be our words. Because words are tools that build narratives that relay our unique lens. We each have our own voice, even at the same bar, drinking the same drink, you and I will have wildly different experiences. (A reason two eye witness testimonies could build two true but completely opposing narratives). How we choose to share our experiences- if we choose to share our experiences- also shares a part of us too, inevitably.
Language holds the threshold for creative capacity. Much of language only exists in personal or collective imagination.
For example; the unreal things of justice, freedom, nations or even tomorrow (which are abstract, vague and exist only as concepts). The ability to think multiple steps ahead is reliant on thinking into a yet unreal future to imagine multiple potential outcomes. All possibilities are equally real or unreal until selected.
Creative capacity is a necessary element of humor. Because jokes happen when we play with or alter anticipated outcomes. When you have future expectations you are already playing with the imaginary- the unreal. Humor itself is indicative of a sense of creativity.
What did our ancestors think was funny? What joke may be objectively funny across cultures and time?
Have you ever cried while cutting an onion? Have you ever had a joke made about crying in regards to onions? “Oh man, cutting onions makes me sad too!” [cue exaggerated sniffles].
In how many languages, in how many cultures have we made these jokes since the introduction of the onion? A joke which isn’t dependent on any pun, or wordplay. Just a situational comedy that exists because it plays with expectations, and a shared knowledge based on common experiences.
Now let’s extend that thought to other sentient creatures. Other social animals need social bonding to build community. Why not humor?
There have been daft times where human society has felt that language, and by extension creativity only belonged to people. However, anyone who has enjoyed any nature documentary now knows that many animals have their distinct languages and even variances in dialects across the world within the same species.
Birds, especially Corvids (which ravens are a part of) have advanced problem-solving skills and demonstrate abilities. They have been known to use the cars to smash nuts by timing red and green lights. They can imagine what others are thinking and anticipate their motives to manipulate them. I’ve known of a tricky raven who feigned injury at a gas station by propping its wing at an awkward angle and hobbling, patrons would pity it, feed it food, and when the raven thought people had left, it would straighten itself out, and fly away.
I like to believe that ravens, aside from having the acting abilities of Meryl Streep, have a sense of humor. A creative capacity intertwined with language abilities suggests that they meet the threshold necessary to create, acknowledge and share a good joke.
Which makes me wonder, what jokes are timelessly funny to a raven?
I already found us humans our onion joke (you’re welcome), what is the ravens’ equivalent? And you might not care what birds think, or if they think, or what they think is funny. But maybe you should, because you care about what perfect strangers think and that is just as relevant to your life, and probably even less productive or stimulating.
But back to my first question. In the beginning, what could I give, that was innate of myself?
Just my words.
A string of evolving symbols put together in sequence as the first creative expression, work of art and extension of self.
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