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"The Funniest Joke Ever Written", an Essay
So I was at a dinner party the other weekend. I don't go there every week, even though there's a little get-together every Saturday. I'm not part of the Inner Circle. That's the norm. The people who come to this mental orgy have plenty of excellent ideas to ponder over, some I like, some I don't. But this idea I heard has to be one of the best ideas I've heard yet.
Do you really want to know what part of the thrill of being a writer is? To you, it may be boring to sit in front of a computer or a blank pad of paper and sit down to start writing. You see no point. But what do writers see? Writers, essayists, diarists, whichever, see Earth, and beside it, a god's toolbox. When writers pick up that pen, they know they have the ability to create whole new worlds of despair or platonic love. They have the ability to mold the ugliest, most evil beast, or to keep track of the bravest hero's travels through the Mediterranean, for example. They can relive the greatest events in human history, like the building of pyramids, or they may describe the most innocuous of experiences, a small peck on the cheek in the comfort of the shadows at a formal dance. God vs. Satan, right in their living room...12 rounds of blood and gore! Or Gore and Kemp. Or hemp, or whores! They can create anything they want, all in one sitting, if they choose. That's power.
And I lust for this power too. If I could just write like Pope or Donne, my words would make my name and life more immortal than they already are. I wouldn't need to leave children -- I'd leave behind culturgens, as my bio teacher would say. I'd leave behind something which made a mark in the world.
Of course, that's thinking into the future. I'm interested in the now, right now. I'm interested in words that kill. Yes, that's right. "Lethal text," as the woman who introduced me to the idea called it. The first thing one thinks of is that Monty Python skit where a man writes the funniest joke ever, and he drops dead after laughing so hard reading it. The police come after they find out he's dead, they read the joke, and they die too. The joke makes its way onto TV, where the newscaster dies, and so on. One of Monty Python's funnier skits, I must admit -- I never acquired a taste for their humor, myself.
Can you imagine writing something which somehow caused a life to stop living? Can you imagine what arcane forces may spring out of language when certain words are enunciated in the right order? What connections we may have with more powerful entities?
Titillating. To have that much power over others with mere strings of letters is awe-inspiring. What would you write about if you knew you could kill? Would it require an ascension to a different level of language? Would you see the world in a whole new light, immersing yourself in an epiphany of omniscience? Perhaps those like Shakespeare have already reached such a level of greatness -- he became immortal in a sense. Somehow he learned how to combine everything about humankind in his works in such a way that we could feel our hearts being ripped out when Ophelia died, or our mouthes singing with the raw delight of the marriage of Benedick and Beatrice. Too bad Shakespeare never killed anyone by reading his works aloud -- that would sure help my theory a lot.
her breath were as terrible as her terminations,
there were no living near her; she would infect
to the north star."
Much Ado About Nothing
Or maybe people like Shakespeare, who reached a higher plane of existence, had become bored with lethal text even before they tried it. It would indeed be a fulfillment for the ego to see someone drop dead upon reading a short verse you'd written. But imagine the great writers' delight when they see from the Heavens above millions upon millions of people weeping, crying, laughing, and sighing over beautiful strings of morphemes they had laced together with the precision of an experienced weaver. Stunning. Does this seem a more powerful way to influence others' lives with your words? Is it a more certain way to make oneself immortal, to ingrain one's name inside another's curious, curious brain? Is it more satisfactory than pulling a Darth Vader and dropping an insolent officer to the floor? I think so.
It's something to strive for. I'd better start writing.
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