Absurdity: Is Life a Joke?

The claim that life is absurd admits of a happy or an unhappy construction.

To say that something is absurd means the same as to say it is ridiculous or worth laughing at.  In other words to say life is absurd is to say it is like a joke.

But there are jokes and jokes.  Some jokes are cruel.  So, for example if I am invited to a party and asked to play hide and seek, and I hide, and the guests don’t find me but go off onto the balcony to drink white wine and laugh about what a loser I am, that would be a cruel joke.  If life were like that t would be an unhappy state of affairs.

Not all jokes are cruel.  If I show up at my house and a friend of mine says that nobody remembered my birthday and says you know what, why don’t you go to the pencil store and get a pencil to write a letter to them complaining, and then when I get to the pencil store it’s been decked out for a surprise birthday party for me, that’s a kind joke.

Is life absurd in the bad way or the good way?  Who knows.  Heidegger says somewhere that man is the poem sung by Being.  Maybe man is the joke told by Being.  The point being that just because it’s absurd doesn’t mean we should cry about it.


2 thoughts on “Absurdity: Is Life a Joke?

  1. N.S. Palmer says:

    It seems to me that both questions (is life absurd, and if so, in a bad or good way) have no single answer because they reflect an existential choice.

    Our lives are what they are: sometimes easy or difficult, pleasant or unpleasant. Whether or not they are absurd, good, or bad resides in how we respond to them. The easiest life, wasted and unappreciated, might as well not have happened. The most difficult life, faced heroically and with passion, becomes beautiful. IMHO.

  2. Mikey says:

    I’m not sure there are cruel jokes and kind jokes. Those two examples you used were really just cruel or kind because you found them to be that way. I think the joke doesn’t exist beyond the people sharing it, and if that’s true then it’s really down to the hearer and the teller whether it’s cruel or kind or funny or bawdy or bad.

    If I’m right about that then the question of whether life is a good joke or a joke at our expense is similar to the question of whether you believe in God. Is there a beneficent force behind it? Or a malefactory one?

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