I frequently quote a long-dead guy named Horace Walpole (1717-1797): a British politician and writer (as Wikipedia tells us) best remembered for writing the first gothic horror novel on record, THE CASTLE OF OTRANTO.
I haven’t read that book since I was 14 years old, and it barely stuck then, so I can’t argue for or against its merits. But what I can say is that he once uttered one sentence that has stuck with me, the whole of my life, more than almost any other. To whit:
“The world is a comedy to those that think; a tragedy to those that feel.”
If there’s one thing I feel almost constantly at the mercy of — every bit as much as the weather, my physical wellbeing, or rampant cultural insanity — it’s sadness. SO MUCH FUCKING SADNESS, accrued to almost every single aspect of living that, frankly, the sorrow is often overwhelming.
I get so sick of crying sometimes that I wish I didn’t feel at all.
As it turns out, though, that’s when THINKING KIND OF COMES IN HANDY. Its job is to attempt to make sense of all that shit you’re feeling. Following the phenomenological evidence trail. Parsing it through your actual brain. Honing in on the facts, through logic and reason. Then integrating that intelligence with your feeling self, with results potentially ranging anywhere from an evolved personal philosophy to a capacity for making or appreciating art. Not to mention gracefully interacting with all the other struggling lifeforms in this crazy dance with you.
THAT’S ALSO WHERE THE LAUGHS COME IN. And fuck if the laughs aren’t our saving grace. Sure, Nietzsche said that every time you laugh, an emotion dies. But the point is: GOOD! The second I start laughing, that overwhelming emotion loses its total control over me. I can think about it. Weigh it. And put it into perspective.
I am not suggesting that you laugh off your feelings, as if they don’t matter. Because they do. They only hurt because they’re true.
But laughing works because it takes everything you think and feel and reveals the absurdity behind it. The INCREDIBLE ABSURDITY. Insofar as I can tell, the only force of nature that runs as deep as emotion or intelligence.
In conclusion: we live in a beautiful, terrible, hilarious, heartbreaking, vicious, tender, brilliantly specific, numbingly pointless and ridiculous world of unlimited potential that will suck us dry any chance it gets, and empower us every chance we take.
So my advice is: THINK AND FEEL YOUR ASS OFF, AS HARD AS YOU CAN. The sorrow’s inevitable. But the laughs are fungasmic.
And balance is everything.
— John Skipp