by Joe Buonfiglio
All right, settle down class. Welcome to Absurdism 101.
Now, it’s a safe bet most of you are here because of the deal I cut with the football coach. You get an easy “A” and I get enough warm bodies in the seats to hang on to my cushy professorship for another semester.
So, let’s begin. What is Absurdism?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “absurdism” is defined as “a philosophy based on the belief that the universe is irrational and meaningless, and that the search for order brings the individual into conflict with the universe.”
In other words, things have gotten so damn weird out there, there’s no sense in — well — trying to make any sense out of it. In essence, reality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The purpose of life is to serve no purpose whatsoever. To my mind, the more utterly bizarre something is, the closer to the true nature of the universe it brings you.
Some of the great philosophic and artistic minds have embraced this belief over the years. You may be familiar with the works of:
Albert Camus — “Man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.”
Daniil Kharms — “I am interested only in “nonsense”; only in that which makes no practical sense. I am interested in life only in its absurd manifestations.”
Franz Kafka — “Don Quixote’s misfortune is not his imagination, but Sancho Panza.”
Kurt Vonnegut — “As for myself: I had come to the conclusion that there was nothing sacred about myself or about any human being, that we were all machines, doomed to collide and collide and collide.”
Samuel Beckett — “What do I know about man’s destiny? I could tell you more about radishes.”
Lewis Carroll — “Contrariwise, if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”
Douglas Adams — “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”
David Lynch — “Absurdity is what I like most in life, and there’s humor in struggling in ignorance. If you saw a man repeatedly running into a wall until he was a bloody pulp, after a while it would make you laugh because it becomes absurd.”
And so many, many others.
I truly believe that there is a beauty to the absurdity in and of life. You know … if you can wrap your mind around monkeys in party hats flying out of your ass in the middle of the night asking you to judge which of them has the best salsa recipe as beautiful.
Now, to me, Absurdism has a rhythm to it; a feel all its own. It flows. It sings. It makes bean counter-types projectile vomit until they need to be hospitalized with dehydration. It comes out of nowhere without meaning and, yet, somehow encapsulates everything. See if you can feel the power driven by the words that render your brain powerless.
— Uncle Barney left the porch light on for his stepdaughter, but the gorilla’s incessant shit-flinging had all the zoo patrons demanding their money back.
— Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers saw doughnuts merely as the transportable glory hole of choice now that Major Tom had claimed his birthright.
— While I view candy corn as comestible perfection, a dolphin vagina has never been elected to the US senate.
— Although Mrs. Nickleby eyed the farmer’s chicken coop with lustful intent, the smoked Gouda’s revenge motive would soon reveal itself.
— While the wombat was not a fan of hibernation, the timeshare salesman’s addiction to the public display of swaddling blankets forced the SWAT team into action.
— While fried chicken for breakfast may not seem reasonable at first blush, Billy lunged at the meerkat king’s freshly rolled blunt anyway.
— No matter how many times Bob posted the “Slippery When Wet” sign, there was always some spelunker’s swordfish clogging up the septic tank.
— Random acts of kindness aside, I’d like to buy two tickets on the evening train to the cereal aisle, please.
— While the church elders frowned upon Margaret’s unremitting yank-fest upon the bovine’s udders, the penguin had to admit the smell of freshly cut salami filled him with wonder.
— Now that the winter thaw had revealed there was indeed a Model T at the bottom of the well, Marvin’s fascination with nipple-piercing could begin in earnest.
— A penny saved is a chickpea incarcerated.
— Sushi night at the guardhouse meant the team mascot could finally achieve full courtesy-flush privileges aboard the cruise ship.
— If at first you don’t succeed, try blending in with the top-shelf bottles before the fucking terrapin take another whack at photobombing you.
— While Edwina was settling in nicely as the curator of the saltine-art museum, it did not dampen the vampire’s sheer joy at learning he could actually shit bricks.
— While Sir Reginald was dismayed by the bard’s refusal to stop bathing the council member’s genitals, the ancient Mayan awoke wondering where everybody went.
— I wanted to express my empathy for the broccoli’s mutual disdain for consumption, but the serial taxidermist was unwavering in his support of Charlie’s dried nasal mucus symposium….
Do you get it?
Good. Then you get it.
But remember, when it comes to Absurdism, just because you love drinking hurricanes in old New Orleans, doesn’t mean time-travelling penis pumps have a chance of saving the honey bees.
Accepting the lack of truth — or the dismissal of any other societal yardstick — will set you free. Religion and the seeking of a Higher Power, science and its demand for discovery and invention, civilization with its laws and mores, the need to procreate and generate a family unit, et cetera, et cetera; it’s all just the mental mechanics of dealing with the fact that we just can’t deal with the fact our own mortality.
I’m gonna die.
You’re gonna die.
We’re ALL gonna die.
And you know what? There’s not a goddamn thing you can do about it! Except for Walt Disney and his frozen head, of course; that fantasy-lovin’ motherfucker knew how to beat the odds.
But outside of the cryogenically enabled, we can’t stave off the evitable knock at the door from the Grim Reaper stopping by for tea. So you might as well put the kettle on now, ’cause that scythe will fall all too soon. And that, my friends, is why we’re all going crazy in this so-called “real world,” because we just can’t figure out why our death has to happen. We’re nice people. Why does it have to be this way?
Oh, goddamn it. This started out as a nice little lecture on the wonders of Absurdism and now I’ve venture into Nihilism territory. We’ve moved from trying to “figure it all out” being a waste of time to all of it — ALL OF IT — actually being a waste of time.
Now I’m depressed.
Get me the chocolate ice cream from the freezer and a spoon.
No, I don’t want a bowl.
Yes, I know it’s an entire gallon. Back off; sharing is NOT on the menu.
Yes, I NEED all of the ice cream! DON’T YOU KNOW I’M GONNA DIE SOMEDAY?!
Finally. Thank you.
You really want to help? Then shut the fuck up and get me the damn chocolate syrup.
Sad. Just … sad. And, strangely enough, completely absurd. That’s the point, really.
In the world of the absurd, all institutions for coping with our ephemeral existence are unnecessary; useless, actually.
Because, in Absurdism, there is no comprehensible meaning to reality. So, there is no comprehensible meaning to life. Thus, death has no meaning either; it is rendered a surreal concept devoid of any significance or even personal consequence.
I find that embracing an absurdist approach quiets the mind. It calms me down. In a way, it makes sense of the nonsensical. It explains how some people can view beheading other human beings as an acceptable form of protesting your opponent’s actions; how some can deny the future decimation of both planet and mankind in order to profit a few dollars more today; even how some folks can wear black knee-high socks with sandals and short pants.
It explains why even though Sally’s headlights clearly needed adjusting, this did not retard the lobster-tank inspector’s belligerent rant from hypnotizing the presidential motorcade chauffeurs into thinking it was “free condom night” at the gardenia exhibition.
© 2014 Joseph P. Buonfiglio All Rights Reserved.