“No one knows what we’re doing here. Some have faith that they do, but no one knows.
So we are scared. We are alone. And we end. And we don’t know where we go. So we cling to money for comfort. And we chase awards for immortality. And we hide in the routine of our days. But then the night, always the night. Which, when it has you alone, whispers that maybe none of this has any significance. So love everyone you’re with because comforting each other on this journey we neither asked for nor understand is the best we can do. And laugh as much as you can.”
The above is pretty serious stuff for a comic strip. “Pearls Before Swine” is the creation of cartoonist Stephan Pastis who in this strip depicts a pig standing on a tree stump wondering out loud about the meaning of existence. It’s an uncomfortable truth he is pondering, one we may not spend much time considering as we “hide in the routine of our days.” But we are ultimately alone, and we will end, and we don’t really know where we go when we depart this life. Disturbing as it can be to think about such things, it’s sometimes good to look them in the face; for by doing so we can come to appreciate that life and death are a mystery, as are the people with whom we share them.
Mr. Pig has reached some important conclusions as a result of his ruminations; while we’re “on this journey we neither asked for nor understand,” it’s important to both love and laugh. Mark Twain once said that compassion is language the deaf can hear and the blind can see. Compassion is love in action. Compassion is visceral, it is tangible, and it can bring comfort that is heard by the deaf, seen by the blind, and felt in the hearts of all people. Love truly is “the best we can do.”
And as for laughter, well, it really is medicine for our souls. In his poem “The Guest House,” 14th century Muslim mystic, Rumi, counsels us to meet unwelcomed guests at the door of our hearts, laughing – even if they’re a crowd of sorrows. This is surely a tall task, but one worth striving for because laughter builds an immune system that robs those sorrows of their power to sour, that is to infect us with the likes of hopelessness, fear, and cynicism.
“But then the night, always the night.” This, for many of us, is the time when we are most vulnerable to fearful thoughts and feelings. When instead of “clinging to money for comfort,” or choosing to “chase awards for immortality,” we face our fears, then the night becomes like day and we may find ourselves both loving and laughing more easily and more often.