Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lonely Men on Corners

There are lonely men on corners, not necessarily pondering their plight but suffering it just the same. They exist in every town, sometimes coming together to form a front that is united by chance and circumstance, aimless in their pursuit of a scarcely definable ideal that is forever beyond their grasp.

Buses and barricades make suitable metaphors, if not bedfellows. It's like the old cosmic joke: We will take you exactly so far, but no farther.

What? That isn't an old cosmic joke? Well, it should be.

One problem with jokes is that they often rely on cruelty for effect. Someone must be the butt of said joke. Lonely men on corners, for example. Revel in the absurdity of their plight. Isn't it hilarious?

Hilarious, indeed, until the realization that we are all lonely men on corners hits. Except for the lonely women, of course.

See? A joke. Which brings us to another problem with jokes. Sometimes they aren't funny.

But this can also be humorous. Because then the person telling the joke that isn't funny becomes the butt of another joke. Ha, look at that idiot, can't even tell a good joke!

And the one we have proclaimed an idiot thereby becomes funny. The joke is so bad—the setup, the delivery, the punch line, the whole shebang—that it becomes good again. Or if not good, then at least memorable. Who can forget an idiot telling a terrible joke?

Don't answer, it's a rhetorical question. Here's another: Is it better to be remembered as an idiot telling a terrible joke or as one of those lonely men on corners?

The choice we make could reveal a great deal about each of us. Or it could mean nothing at all. And if that isn't an old cosmic joke, then it should be.

* * *

Thanks to Brandon Isleib for the opening sentence.

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