The meaning (lessness) of life

A man gets to a certain age and he starts to wonder what it’s all about.

What am I doing here? Why are things the way they are? Why can’t Samuel L. Jackson say “no” to a script? Why am I the only one capable of putting toilet paper back on the GD spindle? Why won’t the wife let me get a trained hippopotamus?

Now, me, I gave up on pondering any “greater meaning” possibilities a long time ago. Far as I can see, we are a lonely clod of dirt floating through a hail of rocks ranging in size from “make a wish” to “kiss your sweet ass goodbye.”

That doesn’t mean life has no meaning, mind you.

This may sound counter-intuitive, but heathens like me find all sorts of meaning in this life: smell a flower, feed a homeless person, feed a homeless person’s cat, mow a homeless person’s lawn—wait a minute!

One of the best ways to spend our time in a purposeful manner is by serving others.

I, myself, as a great human who deserves to be patted on the back while throngs of fans genuflect before me, once spent part of a winter volunteering at a soup kitchen.

Of course, we offered sandwiches, too, so maybe we were a soup and sandwich kitchen.

It was a good experience that taught me some valuable lessons about humility.

None of the clients who came through behaved like they were owed something.

If anything, they were embarrassed to be asking for help.

This idea that all or most or even a measurable number of poor people are just lazy and greedy certainly didn’t get any traction there.

Just last night, the wife asked what I thought the meaning of life was.

She knows better than to ask me what I’m thinking.

I said I thought it was to enjoy life, to take care of each other as much as possible and to learn as much as we can so we may pass on good, useful information to younger generations so that they may do even better than we did.

She nodded while I spoke.

I was so eloquent, you should have seen me.

And then I farted, long and loud.

It wasn’t planned, but my butt’s vaudevillian display, in light of my deep soliloquy, punctuated my ridiculousness perfectly.

Which reminds me of another meaningful activity in this life—laughing.

Make sure you take time to laugh with the ones you love. And fart.

The family that farts together stays together, in separate rooms, but more or less together.

And, just remember, no matter how down you get about life, no matter how bad things seem to get, just remember that once, while he was visiting the White House, Good Morning America weatherman Al Roker shit his pants.

Maybe, just maybe, all I need to give my life more meaning and to perk up these middle-age doldrums is something as simple as a change in moniker.

I’ve actually been playing around with the idea lately. Who knows what I could accomplish if, instead of boring old Ben Gohs, I was Hector Villinovo or Bruce de Balzac?

I can picture it now: Hello, my name is Kumquat Ferrari and I have come in the name of planet Earth. I claim this land for the United States of America and her President, Bill Maher. (Hey, it’s my fantasy. If you want Reagan, pic Reagan.)

Maybe a rose would be just as sweet if it had a different name but who wants a dozen glunks for Valentine’s Day?

I think the names we humans get can have a serious impact on where we end up in this life. Oh, sure, the wild creatures like the bears and bees and monkeys don’t care about things like names, but that’s because they are dumb.

Have you ever seen a monkey drive a car? No. I saw a bear ride a bicycle at the circus once but all he did was go in circles. If I was that bear, I would have been like “Adios, suckers!” and broke the hell out.

Can you imagine a bike-riding bear in the Tour De France? I bet he’d maul the competition. Seriously, he wouldn’t be the fastest but he could just bite all the other bikers and then take a nap and cross the finish line whenever. Who’s going to argue with a 10-foot grizzly on a ten-speed? Did I mention he was a 10-foot grizzly?

Just look at all the successful people with cool and strange names: Charlton Heston, Fuzzy Zoeller, Wolverine. What if Arnold Schwarzenegger had been named Wayne Smith? What if pizza was called “skirk” … what would you fellas like on your skirk? Does that skirk come with garlic crust? How many slices on a large skirk?

I haven’t done much as Benjamin Jon Gohs, but just think what I could accomplish as Kumquat Ferrari!

I would have the confidence to conquer worlds, to reach for previously unknown heights—like breaking the land speed record on foot—not to mention telling the wife that I’m not the only one capable of hauling the trash out to the road every Thursday.

The fact that I love trash day should not matter. She could at least offer. I think the whole bad back thing is just a ruse anyhow.

Kumquat Ferrari could take on Martians, Russians, Al Quaedas and MetaboLife salesmens.

Kumquat Ferrari would make love with his boots on, instead of pawing confusedly under the covers in flip-flops until he is told to stop.

Kumquat Ferrari drives a jet-powered motorcycle with intercontinental ballistic missiles and a giant death laser, not a rusty green mini-van that soccer moms at Walmart all seem to mistake for their own.

Kumquat Ferrari likes to live dangerously, like prune juice and long walks through the mall, dangerously.

Unfortunately, my name is not “Kumquat Ferrari.” I am just boring old Benjamin Gohs, a desperate schmuck.

Some desperate schmucks going through middle-age seek to find meaning in their life through religion.

And, despite the fact that I have been a lifelong skeptic, maybe I need to give it a try.

After all, they say there are no atheists in foxholes. Maybe there are no foxholes in mid-life crises or atheists in middle-age. OK, that doesn’t make sense.

The point is, it seems like a lot of folks confront the prospect of aging by retreating to religion.

For many, the fellowship with other people gives them courage and feeds their need for human contact. After all, the thought of leaving the pain and suffering of this mean old world behind for the comfort, security and magically delicious after-world promised in so many of today’s most popular faiths is tempting.

At my age and weight class it only seems natural that I should dump my lifelong skepticism of the peddlers of magic and magical characters and join up with one of those houses of holiness.

But, which religion would be right for me? The obvious choice would be to join the wife’s church and adopt her beliefs. But frankly I don’t think they’d take me. For one thing, I ask too many questions.

I remember back in junior high English class, the instructor told us emphatically to ask questions if we had any because she wasn’t going to try to guess if we couldn’t understand what was going on.

She explained it for a second time.

I let her response roll around in my head for a bit and with some hesitation I asked again.

By now she had moved on to the next topic.

All eyes were on me.

The teacher stopped what she was doing, walked to my desk and ran her finger along a passage in my book that explained the coefficient of adverbs when desalinating nouns by way of Russian adjectives.

“So what would the answer be, Mr. Gohs?”

She always said my name as though it had a “Z” on the end.

I stared desperately at the text bowing under her pudgy yellowed smoker’s finger. “Uh, I, uh.”

“Well?” she said, tapping her finger impatiently. Whispers gathered on the outer edge of the rows of desks and rushed toward me like wind through tall corn.

“Mr. Gohzzzzzz?” she coooed sarcastically.

“A pronoun?”

Laughter erupted at my gaff.

Her patience at an end, the teacher clucked in disgust and waddled back up to the chalkboard. She moved on and passed me along to the next poor teacher by way of a generous C-minus.

I just know if I let myself get back into a situation where I’m surrounded by peers in desks or pews with a person talking at the front of the room I’ll have trouble.

Someone will undoubtedly light a candle or sing something in Latin and out of reflex I’d raise my hand and start shouting questions at the pastor.

“Why are we kneeling?”

“Who backwashed in the grape juice?”

“How do I conjugate an intransitive adverb?”

“You keep talking about ‘the host’ but I haven’t seen him once.”

And if I can’t make it with the accepting folks of the United Church of Ooga-Booga, how am I going to fare with the Muslims or the Hindus?

For one thing, the wife is too much of a feminist to tolerate head-to-toe garments, curfews, or the inability to leave the house without a male escort.

Although, there could be some perks.

I could wear a robe all day and nobody would balk.

Maybe Scientology could be interesting.

I could go to church with Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley and Doug E. Fresh.

I’ve already tried Buddhism—the secular variety—and I’m simply too angry.

It’s hard to be one with the universe when you’re screaming obscenity-filled directions on how to kill some poor bee who just happened to wander into the house, or chucking a shoe at the dog after you catch him peeing on your recliner.

I’d be out the first time I threw something at a monk or screamed at a dove for pooping on my sandals.

The Rastafari might be worth a try but my allergies couldn’t handle all the pot smoking and the chicken dander.

And about the first time I told the wife to, “Pass dem bloodclot potatoes, mon!” she would slap me out of my dreadlocks.

Iree! Iree!

Satanism is out based on wardrobe alone.

Have you seen their priests? They look like they stepped right off the set of Conan the Destroyer.

And then there are the human sacrifices. The last people we should be ritually sacrificing are the virgins.

For Lucifer’s sake, take the 40-year-old diabetics, use up the senior citizens, have as many Republicans and Democrats as you like.

Regardless of what type of occultism I were to shoehorn myself into, I wouldn’t be able to truly believe its tenets or legends, and I refuse to have faith in claims of magic.

So, as much as it would pain Bill O’Reilly, that pretty much leaves me with secular Humanism, which bids to focus on making life better for our fellow man.

It tells us to always do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. It calls for people of all nationalities, creeds and colors to come together as one race—the human race.

So basically it’s a religion of virtue signaling.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, all this touchy-feely crap is exacerbating my funk.

Besides, I can always find plenty of meaning in a fifth of cherry whiskey and a couple seven-layer burritos.