Mark Palermo

Reconsidering George Carlin

He Was Our S.O.B.
Long Ago Saturday Nights at the Circle 9
The Dark Side of Vaccinations
Wine: Where Ignorance and Pretension Find their Loudest Voice
A 1976 Journey in Search of Self
The Machinery of Mass Dreams
The Outlaw Georgie Bush
Sex Offender Registries Out of Control
Extreme Makeover for Airheads
The Fault Lies not in the Stars, but in Ourselves
Reconsidering George Carlin
If You Think Liberals Are Jerks...
She Couldn't Do Her Chores
Remembering Viktor Frankl
One Day on the Farm-1977
A Fresh Look at Meat
How the Real World Works: A Lesson
30 Bucks for the Human Touch
1929 All Over Again
An Old Man's War, A Young Man's Fight
More Things in Heaven and Earth...
Our Dumbed-down Public Discourse
Bread, But No Roses
Earth's the Right Place for Love
Read This Before Enlisting
Poison Is Good for You: The Fluoridation Scam
Ron Paul:He Makes Too Much Sense
War Is a Racket
Brazil's National Orgasm Day
Calling all Liberals!
Why I Don't Get Flu Shots
What is Community?
Haverhillicus Homocrisicum
If You Wanna Be a Junkie, Why?
Do We Know His Family?
Scam: Youth Sports
A Subsidy for the Human Touch?
How Not to Be Boring
If the Bread and Roses Strike Were NOW
America's Problem with the Body
Columbus Day? or Renaissance Day?
Depleted Uranium Weapons
Mitt Romney: A Clintonian Republican
A Checklist for Conservatives
On Torture and Torturers
Pimp of the Nation
Romney is a Jerk
Hypocrisy and its Champions
The Dumb Society
The Men's Taverns of Yesteryear
On Dittoheads!
Let China Sleep
2004 McDebates
Animal Rights Page
US Wealth Distribution Chart
Public Grief, Private Lives

Unforgettable George Carlin- 1937-2008

I was thinking back over the past summer and the death of comedian George Carlin. In the 1960’s, I first heard Carlin’s  routine, “Seven Words You Aren’t Allowed to Say on Televison,” and I considered it boring and infantile. Maybe because I grew up in an old factory town,  I realized at a young age that cursing is the language of the voiceless and powerless. It is not that I never used curse words myself, but rather I recognized their origin in frustration, bitterness and unlived dreams. Carlin helped to break the barrier against cursing on television, which unfortunately contributed to the potty-mouthed coarseness and lowered standards that are now commonplace. I have mixed feelings about Carlin; he was crude and vulgar, but now I realize he was so much more.


I changed my opinion of Carlin, and the way it happened was mysterious- as it always is when the presence of the unconscious mind emerges to reveal the impostor inside me and you, and moves us to a place where all our visions meet. The unconscious is a great trickster and manipulator of human beings, especially those smug humans who, in their egotism, think they have their world under control. (If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans for the future.)


But back to Carlin. I was in the Haverhill library when I spotted a George Carlin CD on the shelf. I took it on impulse, although I had never borrowed a comedy CD in my entire life. Two days later, driving to Boston, I spotted it on the seat, and put it on, not expecting much. But I was surprised to find myself laughing out loud, and I realized how funny the guy is. I got home later, had supper and went to my office to check my email. The first thing that came up was “George Carlin, dead at 71.” Carlin had been in show business for 50 years, yet I discovered him the day he died.


The unconscious mind doesn’t speak in words, but rather in dreams, intuitions, visions, memories, and meaningful -sometimes amazing-coincidences, which C.G. Jung termed synchronicity, one of the pillars of his life’s work. Some may regard engagement with the unconscious as peculiar, irrational or superstitious- but for me it has always been  serious stuff. Anyway, I had been loaded down, and I asked the Higher Power to show me how to carry the burdens of my life more gracefully. And on the road to Boston, I received an answer.


I laughed so much at Carlin’s jokes, I could actually feel the endorphin hormones releasing in my bloodstream. My face was red. I felt lighter. How could I have not thought of it before? I made the decision then to seek laughter every day, even when there appears nothing to laugh about; not to seek to become a child again, but to cultivate humor in the face of all the storms of life. .


Carlin swore a lot in his performances, and it’s too bad that for some, his name is associated with cursing. Nowadays, of course, almost all comedians overdo it. Maybe it is the English teacher in me taking, but the problem with excessive cursing is that the public always requires a “rougher grade of sandpaper” to be entertained. With vulgarity, a little can go a long way, but maybe some people need rough sandpaper to blow off the world’s contradictions. Carlin was so intelligent and clear thinking, his performances so loaded with underlying truth and resonance that the curse words were only secondary component of his absurdist humor.


As to my mixed feelings about Carlin- the barrier he helped to break was not about mere words- as if words could ever be “mere.” With the right words you can win love, advantages, friendship, money and more. And with the wrong words you can lose them in about five seconds. The barrier Carlin broke had to do with the corruption of language- which leads to the degeneration of a culture. The danger is that some future generation may find their vocabulary reduced to only one angry four letter word- and people will have forgotten how to tell each other who they are and what they need and desire from each other.


Carlin became more relevant as an old man, and continued to attract young people to his performances. What comes through after listening to his material, is the black humor of a sensitive, intelligent human being who was angry at institutional religion, mass media and government, and profoundly disappointed at the wasted potential and missed opportunities of the human race. Carlin was an avowed atheist, and though I am a believer, I have always considered honest atheism – when not grounded in hatred- easier to take than pretentious, holier-than-thou  religiosity. Underneath the coarseness, Carlin had a lot going on in his performances. Unlike Andrew Dice Clay, for example, where all you get is cursing and misanthropy -which is funny for about five minutes- Carlin could morph rapidly, almost imperceptibly from a gravelly voiced tavern blowhard, to a slick radio announcer, to a sober intellectual to a 1960’s stoner to a raving maniac. He could challenge society’s most sacred cows, make you laugh, and come away seeing things from a different angle.


 And about those mysteries of the unconscious, which brought Carlin’s humor into my orbit. I have heeded its promptings. I need to laugh more. We all do. It has been said that life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think. I thank George Carlin for helping his generation think and-because everything, after all, is connected- for making me rediscover the value of humor.


June 2008