Matter and Mind: An Old Joke

Someone tells a joke; their breath passes through their vocal cords and mouth and emerges as a set of vibrations in the surrounding air. These vibrations, in turn, produce a series of changes in the tympanic membrane of the listener. The pattern is transformed, within the middle and inner ear, into one of neuronal communication through cellular membrane and synaptic changes. In this case, light is elited from the monitor as a pettern of spectral frequencies, seen as colours and shapes. In both cases the sensory messages are further processed within the various midbrain, limbic, and cortical areas of the brain. The effect is, in turn, felt throughout the body as blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory, and muscular changes ensue. This happens because the joke has a meaning; it is funny and the person laughs . . . or groans.

Without an understanding of what “funny” means the activity we observe makes no sense. This very looking for sense or meaning to behaviour, itself reflects our being psychological beings. We organize events in terms of their meaning or significance. Even if one observes that all seems purposeless (especially in this case which touches upon the spiritual, existential reality of the person), the reality of the person as a being that structures experience into systems of meanings is clearly evident.

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