The meaning of life. Cheese and crackers.
Which would you choose?
This is the message behind a wonderful New Yorker cartoon, where a wise looking man in a cloak with a staff comes to crossroads and sees these signposts…one pointing in one direction to the meaning of life, the other pointing to another direction to cheese and crackers. Powerful stuff there!
On the one hand, wow, actually having a grasp on what life is all about…the purpose of everything that has brought you this far…the meaning behind the pain and joy and monotony of each day’s events…and yet, there’s that whole ‘what do I need right now’ thing. Like maybe a little protein. Some nice artisan cheese, crackers from Trader Joes. A little Sauvignon blanc. Put my feet up.
How easily we could choose the cheese.
Life’s hard enough, right? Actually understanding the meaning of life, now that could take some time. Might make our heads hurt. Because surely it’s complicated and difficult…and we left our notes at home.
Or is it. Is it actually so simple we would be stunned. Unable to even take it in, believe it, process it.
What if it was just, be kind to others?
Be gentle with the earth?
Love one another?
Wait…is that easy, or hard? Guess it depends on how you look at it. Who you are. And what kindness means to you.
And once we knew what the meaning of life really is, we’d have to actually follow it, right? We couldn’t just go back to how we’ve been doing things. Like cursing other drivers. Or pretending we don’t see the elderly person walking painfully slow alone in a parking lot. Or not helping someone who speaks another language figure out how to get a transit ticket.
Cause we’d know better. And then what?
We eat cheese for a lot of reasons. It tastes good. It goes great with certain beverages. It’s fun. And it’s protein…a little shot of strength that can keep us going. Why else would we put it in strings that can be consumed on the go?
And for full disclosure, it’s at this point I have to confess my favorite name for a band of all time is The String Cheese Incident. You can check out their music here. They hail from Colorado, so you know they’re good. Best name ever.
But I digress.
Maybe the real lesson to this cartoon is that we sometimes just have to stop and laugh. Look for humor in what is often a very unfunny world. Try to find that bit of silliness that really I think exists in just about everything anyway. Because life itself can be exhausting sometimes. And sometimes, you just have to take a break.
Perhaps the best solution is to carry a little sustenance with us as we make the journey, so can keep moving forward toward self-actualization without having to turn back when we get too tired. Or hungry. Or scared. Or bored. So our backpack should have some protein in it. Something delicious we enjoy. Comfortable socks in case our feet get wet. A whistle in case we need someone’s attention. A compass in case we get lost.
And lots of belief in ourselves. Enough to take us all the way there. So when we arrive, we aren’t empty.
Have the cheese. Eat the crackers. Add a little dessert.
Your path matters. But don’t forget the small moments of joy along the way. They are what will get you home.
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”