“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own. … And as for small difficulties and worryings, prospects of sudden disaster, peril of life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem to him only sly, good-natured hits, and jolly punches in the side bestowed by the unseen and unaccountable old joker.”
Moby Dick, Chapt. 49, by Herman Melville (1859)
I know that Melville here was talking about the effect that those people risking life and limb come to experience in the height of danger; the “free and easy sort of genial, desperado philosophy” that life-threatening experiences engender. But even without physical danger there have been times — often in the midst of psychological or emotional tribulations but sometime even when all is well with the world — that I have had that feeling that the Universe is some Great Joke… And that the joke is on me.
It’s not necessarily a bad feeling. After all, I don’t mind being the butt of a joke… As long as it’s a good one.
But maybe it’s more than that. Maybe those times where you feel that everything is a joke is a faint understanding of how infinitesimally small everything you experience, think, feel and perceive actually matters in the grand scheme of things. That’s not to say that we are unimportant. But when you put our individual lives beside the Universe as a whole, how laughable and ludicrous it is to think that whatever is going on in our lives is the be all, end all of… of anything.
It really is quite funny when you think about it. No, really. Let’s think about it for a moment. Consider the three images I have included in this post’s header image… Continue reading The Great Joke