Go on, get the dictionary out. It's time for another...

SOPHIST's CHOICE

George Burns and the true meaning of life

Don't you ever feel guilty that you don't have a more productive hobby than watching Barrow AFC? Or one that's more socially useful? And then do you start to ponder the pointlessness of it all? Life's a bitch and then you die? After all, just what is the meaning of life anyway? Now there's a question even Plato, Descartes and Monty Python couldn't answer. But we're going to have a go - stick with us and we'll call on the services of an expert existentialist philosopher who can testify that watching Barrow every other Saturday is just as good a reason for living as any other.

But first, we'd better try and explain all this existentialism stuff. Jim Morrison, the charismatic (now dead) Doors vocalist once described it as "hey, like... uh, erm... no philosophy, uh... you ever saw, maan!" Let's just say that existentialism is a highly subjective concept that has more to do with an individual's approach to life than it has with more traditional philosophical concerns about the true nature of our Universe.

So before we wade in too deep, we'd like to call in our expert existential witness who is... (wait for it)... none other than... (hold on)... George Burns. "George Burns!?", I hear you say, "but he's a comedian, and not even a very good one at that!" Well yes, but as God in the film 'Oh God!'*, he succeeds in summing up in fourteen words what all those wretched Froggy existentialists tried and failed to express about the meaning of life in about fourteen hundred volumes of dull soggy prose.**

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "They've dangled their legs over the cliff edge of complete imbecility on this page more than once before now, but this time they've decided to jump!" Well, why not jump with us? There's a bed of pure corn coming right up to soften the landing.

In the film, God (Burns) appoints a young man played by John Denver to be his envoy here on Earth. Understandably enough, Denver is pretty reluctant, but can't resist asking God what the meaning of life is. So God tells him: "The meaning of life is what each person makes it; no more, no less." Pretty existential, huh? Remember all that stuff we said before about a subjective approach to life?

So you see, you shouldn't feel less noble than those who have made it their mission in life to bring love, peace and freedom to the oppressed peoples of the world, or to tend the sick, feed the starving, house the homeless or simply spread the word of righteousness throughout the land. That's all okay too, but feel free to feel happy watching Barrow in whichever league they happen to find themselves in for the rest of your days and don't let anyone tell you it's wrong. Because ain't this what living is really all about?

*Cowps was unavailable. Work commitments - the old excuses are always the best.
**My, we're such philistines, aren't we?

Issue 012 - September 1992

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Next: Stephen Hawking explains why time seems to pass more rapidly as we get older, and the implications this has for our National game.