Of one’s own element
   Date :12-Oct-2021

Ben Jonson _1  
By Vijay Phanshikar :

“Every Man In His Humour”.
- Title of a satirical play by
16th century English writer
Ben Jonson,
in which, by one report,
William Shakespeare took part
HUMOUR, unfortunately, has assumed only one dimension over time -- of the funny side of things or situations or people, so to say. This is, without doubt, a degradation.
Of course, this interpretation will militate against the popularly-held belief, challenge the general assumption that goes by the satirical aspect of things. Humour, however, is far from just that -- though it may deal with the funny, with the awkward, with the absurd. Going by purist considerations, humour is only partially something that highlights or underlines the absurd. Contrarily, humour connotes an individual’s element, or his -- or her -- core nature or basic beliefs or ingrained habits that suit his -- or her -- upbringing. So, in classic thought, humour means one’s own element -- in which one excels or revels or rises above the normal.
In ancient Sanskrit literature, humour has had serious importance, encapsulated by word Vinod which is derived from Vi-h Nud (something that takes one forward, elevates one, sublimates one’s spirit).
A popular term often defined intellectual discourse in ancient India -- Kavya-Shastra-Vinod (Poetry-Science-Humour). Men and women of letters, persons of substance, intellectual stalwarts often congregated to have a fine time engaged in Kavya-Shastra-Vinod. References are available in ancient Indian literature that from such sessions of Kavya-Shastra-Vinod, people emerged rejuvenated, elevated mentally, relaxed physically -- having found their lost verve.
Humour, thus, refers rarely to the satirical aspect of things or situations or persons. It relates to the process of mental elevation.
Ben Jonson wrote “Every Man In His Humour” as one of the three original satires after he returned to civil society after serving a jail term following an unfortunate death by his hand in a duel (which was a common occurrence in England of those days). Embittered by the prison experience, presumably, he tried to look at the funnier side of life, picked up some nuances that bordered on the absurd, and wrote satirical plays whose literary merit attracted even William Shakespeare. The title of the “Letters To The Editor” column in ‘The Hitavada’ -- Every Man In His Humour -- often attracts questions or even raised eyebrows seeking to know why it has been there. Early editors at ‘The Hitavada’ found the title fit for the column -- and very rightly so.
Humour, thus, has an elevational value, a forward and upward dynamics of its own.