Why did the chicken cross the road?
To get to the other side.
Best. Joke. Ever.
And it gets funnier every time I tell it. I can't tell it without laughing.
Comedy is based on the one-two punch of surprise and inevitability. The punch-line has to catch you off-guard, and then has to resolve itself in such a way that it shifts your perspective and suddenly you see the situation in a completely new and yet completely grounded way. You think, "of course it is that way, it could be no other way."
The reason this is progressively more side-splittingly hysterical to me as the years go by is that it keeps being the classic answer that everyone learned first. This is often the very first joke we learn. And because of this, nobody expects it. If you tell a chicken joke, they expect anything else. “To get the Chinese newspaper.” “To pick up the laundry.” “To boldly go where no chicken has gone before.”
Nothing is more stunning, more astonishing, and yet more obvious and simple and elegant than the answers we learn first. Especially after life goes by and we try out lots of other answers, all of whom have their merits, but none of which are actually...dare I say it...the right answer. Which is part of why we love them; we learn a lot by tossing ourselves off-center and finding out what the world looks like from different balance points.
But if you want real ease, real simplicity, and real peace, go with what you knew before you knew anything else. Go with the real center. Any potter will tell you, that's how bowls are made and it's silly to try to do it otherwise, although if you want to wear yourself out trying, go right ahead. Or go with TS Eliot, getting religious on us: “In my beginning is my end.” Or go with how the Qu'ran is organized: they give you the whole message in the first word, then unpack it in the first paragraph, then unpack it more in the first chapter, and so on. It's not a linear book, it's an expanding book. It's like Cliffs Notes for those who missed it the first time. But it's all right there.
If you want to know what to be when you grow up, ask yourself what you were doing when you were four years old. Or younger. Because there's your answer.
If you want to know how to dance, go back to who you were before you were anything. Go back to being a baby. Go back farther to being an unborn baby. Go back farther to being a four-legged mammal. Go back farther to being a fish. Go back farther to being undifferentiated light. Go back to the beginning, and therein lies your destiny.
We in the Bay Area like to nod our heads sagely and say, “many paths, one Way,” (usually between sips of kombucha). Everybody who talks about the Way, whether they call themselves teachers, priests, artists, monks, yogis...or whatever...is telling us, “to get to the other side.” But it's up to us to scramble around barking our shins on life until one day, with luck, we have an
epiphany and it's right there in front of us! The first lesson we ever learned! Suddenly, everything makes sense and we know how everything must be, because we know how everything is. And we feel like we figured it out all on our own, this genius revelation. Hey, guess what, guys! The chicken crossed the road to get to the other side!
If you want to know what love is, go back to the beginning.
It's always been there, waiting for you to discover what you always knew.
Because the most revelatory James Bond movie ever is the one where we go back to the
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