I tend to be a bit of a joker in my day-to-day interactions with people, especially when I’m at work. Often, it is to help with the usual chaotic and stressful environment dealt with on a daily basis. That’s not to say that I should take up a job as a comedian anytime soon, judging by the certificate I received during our employee appreciation week, awarding me the title of, “Best Dad Jokes.”
Note, I’m only 31 and am neither currently in a relationship or have any children whatsoever.
One could be forgiven for thinking this would cause me to stop doing what I’m doing, but I won’t. I have my reasons.
It all goes back to my brother.
Several months ago, I wrote about my younger brother who, at the ripe old age of 13, decided life wasn’t worth living anymore. So, on a cold January afternoon in 2001, he took his life at home.
It was devastating. As you would imagine. Of course it changes you.
In my case, it made me get funny.
If only to myself.
In my last relationship, a point of contention that would often come up is why I was constantly joking all the time and not serious enough. And hell, it was likely part of the reason why it ultimately broke us up after four years of dating. I knew the reason why I was the way I was, but I could never articulate it very well.
Until, I think, now.
I was 16 when everything with my brother happened. And at that time, for the first time in my life, I was confronted with death.
DEATH. DEATH. DEATH. DEATH.
As a teenager, this is the very last thing you ever think about. At that age, you are just in the process of figuring out what your life is going to be and how the hell you are going to get there. Which makes you completely unprepared for when tragedy occurs. So that, when I was staring down at my brother lying in a coffin, there was only one thing flashing through my brain like the most repetitive news crawl in the world.
DEATH. DEATH. DEATH. DEATH.
For awhile, that’s really all my life was. The constant repetition of this word haunting as a ghost. Pulsing and prodding me to understand its torturous grip and eventual consummation of my brother. It laughed at me for my inability to come to grips with it.
For a long time, I let it do so.
Then I realized, I could turn the laughter back at itself.
It started when I began speech in high school. Mind you, I decided to participate in persuasive speaking, which, by its nature, is not funny. You could tell when entering a high school classroom before a competition round how tense the environment was.
I was tense along with it. And in an effort to help quiet the butterflies frittering around my stomach, I started to joke around.
At first, it was just small little goofy things. Ways to make people see we were not so much competitors but rather fellow travelers in this crazy endeavor we all decided to participate it. And, surprisingly enough, I managed to get a few chuckles. Even a genuine laugh here and there. And of course, it felt pretty darn good.
However, there weren’t that many competitions and I was otherwise fairly quiet and certainly not big man on the social status ladder. But time worked its numbing pattern and rolled in its slippery mental fog, and the crawl inside my head changed.
death. death. death. death.
Eventually it stopped crawling altogether.
It was subtle and took a long time to change. But change it did.
And as it did so, I changed with it. At 16, I was witness to the worst problem with the human body. It just doesn’t stick around as long as you want it too. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. Except…well….come to learn to laugh at the craziness of it all.
Of course, death is always going to have the last laugh. Its appetite is endless, its coming unseen, and its reach unavoidable.
That’s where the comedy comes in.
For comedy is but a trip into the collective absurd and the comedian is the tour guide. And life is the most absurd of all.
It’s certainly not reliable. It reminds me of a friend you take to dinner whom, after you excuse yourself to go to the restroom at one point, takes off and leaves you to pay the bill.
It’s also certainly not consistent. Its great, then it sucks, then its ok again, then terrible, then somewhere between bleh and meh, then…well a thousand other things. And that’s just till the end of the week.
And it’s more a game than anything. We spend our whole lives collecting people, memories and stuff, all in an effort to be remembered forever. Except we won’t. And we can’t. The system is gamed against us before we even start. We receive one turn with no continues. We are a player. Then a level. Then simply a name and a high score. Then we get obsolete and no one can play us anymore.
Sure, you may be someone who believes that you will go to a place where all those loved ones will be and therefore you will never be forgotten or or be able to forget anyone. To all of you I say go ahead and believe that if it provides you with the comfort you need. My comfort simply derives from elsewhere. We can at least agree that your remembrance comes not on the physical plane. Those who knew you will pass away until no one is left, memories will fail until the visions can’t be trusted, and stuff will grow tattered, worn, and eventually will need to be tossed away.
So when you get down to it, life isn’t really all that serious with us so why should we be with it? It’s certainly the most important thing we have access to, but it plays around with us at every opportunity it can. So you can despair at its every dip and turn, or you can laugh at how hard it tries to twist itself in knots.
In the end, you can be like my brother and determine that everything in life is meant to be serious. Except when you do so, death wins much faster. Because that gives fear the opportunity to creep in and root. For the unknown is a void where it’s so easy to lose your footing and step off the edge. I’d rather have comedy to provide the light to illuminate the illusion of darkness and sanity that claims to surround us. So I’ll continue with my “Dad jokes” or whatever people want to call them because life goes to a punch line that slays every time. And I hope to be laughing too damn hard to notice when it happens.