Saturday, April 16, 2011
Not exactly about ping-pong
Someone once told me a joke, that is probably the silliest I ever heard but ironically one I never forget. It is exactly its silliness that makes it all the more meaningful. That's how the joke goes: one day a boy asked his father, what do you want for your birthday, and the father says, I want a ping-pong ball, next year, the boy comes with the same question and heard the same answer, and the following year, and the following. Every year, the father answers that he wants a ping-pong ball, until one day, when the father was on his death bed, the boy comes again and asks his father what he wants for his birthday, and again, the father says, a ping-pong ball. Here, the boy finally spits it out and asks, but father, all these years I have asked you what you wished for your birthday and you always said you wanted a ping-pong ball, but why? So the father says: because...because... and he dies, before he could finish his sentence. The joke is not funny but absurd. The absurd as skillfully explained - or shall I say preached?- by Albert Camus and others, I find one of the most fascinating theories or philosophies. That exact "why" is what keeps humanity buying ping-pong balls knowing damn well in the deepest oceans of their souls the futility of their quest. What ties them to this futility is a notion of an illusory answer they think they have deep inside but they find incommunicable, instead, they cling to their instinctual and invented desires and the philosophy of avoidance, of blindness because seeing is terrifying. Imagine yourself in an out of body experience looking at your own life, at any normal day of your life, and you will definitely form a very distinctive notion of yourself than the one you had until that moment, when you were still looking at yourself inside inward. That experience is so terrifying that one prefers to curl inside that bubble that is the self, where questions with no answers seem much more convenient to live with than the terrifying answer(s) to the big 'why' question. But there is also all the maturity and clarity of the world in that blindness. The ping-pong ball joke is funny in this sense. You might burn all your brain cells in thinking but maybe the answer is right there in front of your eyes, as bright and blunt as the sun. Life is probably not more than a joke, it is at best a ping-pong ball, but definitely one worth a shot.