We think we’re so cool because we stumbled to the top of the food chain.

I have written a joke to tell you. It’s about bears. I’m proud of it. I think it’s a good joke, which means it’s a fundamentally flawed joke. Tells you about my taste in jokes.

For example, my favorite joke has been this one for a long time:

Two muffins are sitting in the oven. One muffin says to the other, “It’s hot in here.” And the other one says, “Sweet Jesus, a talking muffin!”

See? That’s genius. If I could ever discover who wrote that joke I would bake a cake for them every day for the rest of their lives. Probably. I’m glad I don’t know who they are, really, because I’m shit at baking.

And, although I love that joke, I ruin it for myself. I have analyzed it far too many times. It’s like a reflection of a whole philosophical school, in my mind. It’s like a window into the human soul.

The rhetorical turn of it! So poetic! The juxtaposition of ideologies! The tautological loop — the implications about the social milieu required. I just sweat with the effort to unlock all the new layers that present themselves after years of contemplation.

And people tell me I need a hobby.

So when I say I have a good joke and I like it, I want you to understand what I mean.

It’s a short joke, this joke I made up. And, just like all my best jokes, it makes no sense at all without a huge explanation to ruin the humor.

People also tell me that I need to look up the definition of “best.”

I’ll tell you the straight line now, then I’ll explain it, then I’ll tell you the punchline. That way you have ample time to forget that it’s a joke.

It’s all part of the plan.

Here’s the straight line:

What is the most civilized act of mankind?

Already, we’re in over our heads.

Mankind? Civilized? Surely, some might say, we are merely the pudgy, dough-filled product of a species — ourselves — that has mastered the art of taming, and we are our own greatest achievement.

We are the most well-trained, well-tamed species that we’ve ever turned our attention to. We’ve even gotten to a point where we differentiate between “animals” and ourselves, with no biological precedent whatsoever.

What have we done to deserve a different category? Blundered our way out of caves, into mobs, and then into structures that are, essentially, rearranged caves. That’s what. Mobs made entirely of panic, gnawing, and hiding the evidence. That’s how we became the concluding link in our food chain: persistent blundering, and loosely organized panic, with little to recommend us except tailcoats and chocolate eclairs.

So we’re not all that bad, really.

Maybe I’m the only person that says that.

For the sake of argument, I’ll say for a minute that civilization does look like that, and that civilization is something we’ve accomplished as a species.

Supposing that’s the case, I’ll now finish my joke.

I ask:

What is the most civilized act of mankind?

Answer:

Camping.

Now, that may make no sense now, but think about it this way: Civilization has, more or less, been an organized panic since it started way back…before now. I’m not good at schedules.

And if it has been an organized panic, then what has it been a panic about?

I’ll tell you.

It’s been a panic about being outside.

Outside! Where the interface has no design team! Where there are no thermostats to control the climate, where we might get wet — imagine it! wet! — and, most importantly, where the bears are clearly waiting around every corner to eat us.

That seems to be the main driving force for the ongoing development of humankind: that the world is full of bears, and we need to build bigger, taller, shinier buildings to keep them away, and keep ourselves and our lattes safe.

Which means my joke makes perfect sense. It takes a pretty firm faith in the continuation of your species to decide that you’re going to go outside into the wilderness, make yourself a house out of cloth, bring bear bait with you in the form of hot dogs and beans and marshmallows, and then sleep there. It’s either audacity or foolishness, and I wish it was audacity because I’d love to have more excuses to use that word.

And not for any survival reason either. For no reason! For no reason other than “recreation,” which is a ridiculously overblown word for an act that is essentially daring the bears to come and eat you.

That is why I’ve written not just a good joke. I’ve written a great joke! A generation defining joke! A joke that will be remembered on popsicle sticks till the end of time!

People also tell me I should stop writing jokes.

Joke’s on them.

At least it will be after I start working a tattoo parlor.

See what I did there?


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