Mount Shasta, CA March 1 (Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!), 2007, 5:15pm: When I was in the checkout line at Ray’s Supermarket, the serious young man asked me a question:
“Paper or plastic?”
I told him that I would take plastic, because it was very bad for the environment, and I wanted to do my part by helping him to clear out some of it. He looked at me, puzzled.
“It’s a joke, young man,” I said. “It doesn’t actually mean anything at all.”
He became pensive, or maybe he was thinking about something else, or perhaps he was reviewing the multiplication tables or the periodic table, or possibly wondering about dinner.
And so I explained it for him. (It is good to do this for the young people around us, so that we can enrich their lives, and some day they in turn can pass these wisdoms on to those younger still.)
“You see,” I said, “as you grow older, you’ll discover that, more and more things around you seem funny.”
He still looked puzzled, or perhaps concerned. I went on.
“In fact,” I said, “by the time you become very old, nearly all of life seems to be kind of a joke.”
He looked definitely worried now. I summed it up for him.
“That’s one of the reasons people die,” I said. “They just get tired of laughing.”