The Jokes on You.

The setup for this joke took place on a dusty road in Tula, Mexico in 1974, the punchline (if that’s what it was) would be delivered four years later and about 10,800 kilometers away. If it was a joke, that might be some kind of record.

Shaggy dog stories ” are a type of joke that wanders down a winding path and only after a long telling arrives to its punchline; the lamer the better. And having finally gotten there the results are such that you’re certainly well within your rights to ask, ‘what’s so funny about that?’

No doubt one person’s lame is another person’s brilliant. Fair enough, but the differences in what we find humorous is perhaps itself no trivial thing.

“What’s so funny about that?” That’s no simple question. It reflects more than the perplexity of the one who asks it – few things produce the mixture of curiosity, frustration, perhaps embarrassment and implicitly exclusion as not getting a joke. In fact some folks, of a certain sociological bent, might argue that this is precisely the point. It defines the border of two very important groups, insiders and outsiders. That’s pretty fundamental stuff, though in the end the question has even more fundamental aspects. And the capacity of jokes to act like a “transferential probe” is not fortuitous.

Let me repeat, this is not a “shaggy dog” story. Anyway at least I hope not. If it is, it’s not on purpose. On the other hand, it might not be the funniest joke ever told . It might not even be a joke. Let’s say it is an anecdote about a joke. At least I think it is, but in reality I can’t swear even to that. Though I will try to give you enough background so that you can decide for yourself. I don’t won’t you to feel like I’m suckering you into paying attention to this long ramble in order to get to a (perhaps not totally satisfying) payoff. So I won’t hold off; I’m going to lay out the whole thing and then fill in the details.

For now, I’ll cut to the chase, avoiding any chance of this ending up, even remotely, as a shaggy dog story.

An outline:
1974 met Silo for the first time in Mexico. Went to various meetings, including a number of events formal and informal where he spoke. Listened to many interesting conversations. Joined a small group accompanying him to various ruins. Talked with him briefly a few times.

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From right to left: Homer, Silo, Bob

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Me (with moustache), Mary, Jeff Mexico DF. 1974

Excerpt from a dialogue:
Silo_ “Danny how old are you?”
Danny_ “20”.
Silo_ After briefly looking Danny up and down: “Too young”
--- and he walked away.

1975 Corfu, Greece. Spent a month in a Center of Work. A series of month long sessions or cohorts (“camadas” in Spanish). Each cohort was 20 or so people. Silo and 5 or 6 coetaneans stayed on for all the camadas . Notes from Silo’s talks in Corfu were compiled in Psychology Notes I

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Excerpt from dialogue:
Silo_ “Danny, how old are you?”
Danny_ “21”.
Silo_ With only a momentary hesitation: “Too young.”
--- and he walked away.

1976 Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain
I would think there must have been 20 or 30 of us in this month long meeting. For a brief time Gran Canaria was the home to our Centre of Information and the publishing centre that produced our semestral report. Notes from Silo’s talks in these retreats were compiled in Psychology Notes II

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Excerpt from dialogue:
Silo_ “Danny, how old are you?”
Danny_ “22”.
Silo_ Shaking his head: “Too young.”
--- and he walked away.

1978 Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain
This much larger meeting was also much shorter in duration (a week rather than a month). Notes from Silo’s talks on this occasion were compiled in Psychology Notes III

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Excerpt from dialogue:
Silo_ “Danny, how old are you?”
Danny_ “24”.
Silo_ Shaking his head: “Too old.”
--- and he walked away.

Did you miss it? That was the punchline.

If you want it spelled out in a little more detail… here’s a thicker version