7 Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. 8 Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. 9 Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days.
Well, there's a bummer, right? I suppose, if you look at it in a certain way. Me, I like it. It tells me that whatever I do, I may as well have fun doing it, because there's no real meaning to any of it, other than what I assign to it. I like that. My life is my own...And I sing while I work, you know, "la da dee dee dee...", because I'm enjoying what I'm doing
And look around you. Look at the men who assign dreadful meaning to their actions. The Kaiser. That funny little man with the mustache and the emo hairdo in the second world war. Robert MacNamara. The Koch brothers. They taught you all to be serious
, which ranks among the greatest of their crimes. Life is too important to be taken seriously.
My brothers and I made a running joke of that. Moe was the serious one. Larry was the guy who thought that, because Moe was serious, HE had to be serious. And I was the guy who wouldn't play along, wouldn't take the ridiculousness with a straight look on my face. Of course, they weren't really like that, but that was our schtick. Making the serious people look silly.
A century later, I learned what laughing til your guts bled meant
. It was on That Day...Most of you don't remember it, because most of you won't LET yourselves remember it. The Machine™ had stuttered, skipped a beat, and everything stopped just for a moment. I remember Payne staring past the police line, wondering how I'd gotten onto the other side (well, being dead (differently alive?) does afford you some advantages). I hollered that I was going to shut The Machine™ down forever, and hauled ass to the building the police were trying to keep everyone out of.
I rant through the revolving door (3 times. Sorry. Habit.), and skidded around a corner, just like the old days. There was a man dressed in a business suit staring at me. Without saying a word, he drew a pistol and shot me in the chest 3 times. I ran right through him, yelling "WISE GUY, EH?", and went bounding down the hall. I had never in my life felt so alive, the very idea of which made me laugh like a madman.
A head of me was a door marked "Authorized Personnel Only", and it was guarded by two soldiers. They shot a bunch of bullets at me, so I did my "NYUK NYUK NYUK" bit at them, and ran right through, desperate to see this Machine™ everyone talked about.
In the room were three men tinkering with a bunch of computers. Behind them, the wall was made up of banks of television screens.
"Not so fast!", I yelled.
The technicians stared at me.
"Leave that alone!", I continued.
"And why should they do that, Mr Howard?", a voice behind me asked.
Turning around, I saw an elderly gentleman in a suit. He was clearly in ill health, sitting in an office chair.
"Because people don't need your Machine™. People need to relax and laugh a bit more and not worry so much. Oh, and by the way, Mr Howard is dead. I'm Curly."
"Is that really what you believe, Mr...Curly?"
"Yeah, and people like you got no right making all those people unhappy."
The old man wheezed laughter.
"Just wait another minute, Curly, and I'll show you just exactly how wrong you are."
At that point, the technicians all stepped back, as everything in the room came to life. All the screens turned on, showing millions and millions of people. The people were all worried and overworked and stressed out.
"Now see what you done?" I hollered. "How do you do that, anyway?"
"Do what, Curly?"
"Make everyone miserable like that?"
"Then what's this 'Machine™' for?"
"Oh, this?", the old man gestured at the computers and the screens. "This is an observation room. It controls nothing."
"Then why is everyone miserable?"
"Because, Curly, they are humans, and there are a lot of them. They don't understand that they are primates, who will behave like primates unless shown differently. They only know that SOMEONE is to blame for their misfortunes. They are quite correct. But that SOMEONE isn't me, or the president, or anything like that. That SOMEONE is themselves
. That's what the Machine™ is, Curly...It's 7.3 billion primates, all thinking that this is all somehow serious, and that someone is to blame. Someone. Anyone but them."
I just stood, slack-jawed, looking at the screens. The old man was right. 100% right.
"So what can I do?"
"Well, Curly, you can go out there and try helping them, one at a time, or a bunch at a time, whatever. Sorry there's no monolithic bad guy, sorry it's not that easy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some observations to make. Dan, show this gentleman out the back way, if you please."
One of the technicians waved at me to follow...Down a hall, to a pair of double doors with an EXIT sign over them.
"So long, Curly, I always liked your stuff."
I walked through the door, blinking in the bright light. Ahead of me was a highway. This highway. And I've been walking it ever since, running into people like you. People who think that they ALMOST have a handle on things, but have in doing so, forgotten how to laugh. And I just remind them, you know, that life isn't all that serious. Time works differently here, so I have forever to do it, but all in an instant.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the best part of that bible verse at the beginning. It's kind of the punchline.
For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
Ain't that something? Nyuk nyuk nyuk!