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Friday
Apr222011

Pondering the Paper Tiger

To contemplate whether Hobbes is a real tiger or a stuffed animal is to miss the point. It doesn’t matter. You don’t need to know to appreciate him. In fact, if you get caught up in the issue, you stop deriving pleasure from him. And happiness counts. Existential pondering does not.

This understanding defines who I hang around with.

Lately, when I’m with my friends I see that others sort of freak out about how we behave. Observers become nervous, not knowing whether we are serious or kidding. Shouting. Mockery. Nitpicking. Profanity. It all creates unease. It is not malicious in any sense. It may be gregarious, but it is ultimately meaningless.

Admittedly, my friends and I have a distinct sense of humor. It can be basic and silly or a richly layered set of references drawing on culture—popular or esoteric—or distant events, real or imaginary. Everything is fair game. It all can be pulled apart and thrown out there to see what potential may be locked within.

When onlookers are present, they become desperately insecure about not getting “the joke”. Am I the joke? Is that the joke? What are you laughing at? Why is that funny?

The reality is, everything is a joke and nothing is a joke. To care is to miss the point. There is just a continuum of absurdity. Things don’t have to be this or that. They just are. And it is truly not about a joke. It’s about a reaction. It is entertaining to see how people act when confronted with the absurd.

But people fear that, and desire the definitive. Most want to be Calvin, but they end up being his parents—losing sight of what’s real and what’s not. When they all should just enjoy the paper tiger.

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