Vision: The Memeing of Life by Howard Hanger

March 1, 2017 |

Never underestimate how much assistance, how much satisfaction, how much comfort, how much soul and transcendence there might be in a well-made taco and a cold bottle of beer. –  Tom Robbins

The other day I watched a dog chase his tail. He did it for maybe 3 minutes. Around and around and around. It was entertaining.  Easily more comical than most dog videos on YouTube. I thought, “Does a dog really have nothing better to do than chase his tail?” And then I realized that I had just spent 3 minutes watching a dog chase his tail.

As far as I’m concerned, however, it was time well-spent.  For both of us. The dog seemed to be enjoying himself.  And, God knows, those 3 dog-and-tail minutes were far more delightful than most meetings I’ve ever attended, most TV shows I’ve ever watched, most politicians or preachers I’ve ever heard, most newspapers I’ve ever read, most classes in school I ever or never studied for, most gurus or week-end workshop warriors I’ve ever listened to and certainly more soul-satisfying than every prostate exam I’ve ever endured.

Sooner or later, everybody spends their time, energy and bucks searching for meaning in this life. We look to the Bible, the Koran, the Upanishads, the Tao. We look to CNN, Fox News or NPR.  We look to poetry and art and music and dance.  We look to sex and stimulation.  To jobs and compensation. To activism and confrontation. To hope and aspiration. To marriage and procreation. To booze and medication. So many places where the meaning of life might be hidden – so many rocks under which to look. So little time.

A meme is an idea, style, phrase, behavior, colloquialism or whatever that spreads from person to person within a culture or community. Memes can determine what is considered hip or un-hip. Cool or un-cool.  Appropriate or inappropriate.  Memes can be sneaky little boogers.  Like a virus or bacteria, memes can spread to and through

you without you even being aware. With teenagers, for example, anything considered “cool” has a life expectancy of a booger in a 4 year-old’s nose. Could be a phrase, song, behavior, dance step, pop star, style of clothing – these memes tornado through teen brains and culture, and take them to Oz-and-back before you can say the word “pizza.” In teenworld, what’s “cool” when tweets begin at 7 a.m. can easily be “uncool” by lunchtime. And what was “uncool” on Monday could be retro “cool” by the weekend. Teen memes make the speed of light seem like a sloth on Xanax.

The older we get, however, the slower memes seem to operate. But, operate, they do. And, since any of us has the power to kick a meme into high gear – to jump-start a behavior, an idea or even a quirk – that will move through people and transform society, what better way to begin than with some sheer, unadulterated joy: The joy of a dog chasing his tail?  The delight of a human watching a dog chase his tail?  Who – other than some humanoid supremacist – would say memes can’t operate between the species?

A specious social ethicist might strip this argument down to optimistic folderol; but I suggest that the bumper sticker, “Don’t Postpone Joy,” may be one of our culture’s most important contributions to world peace (thank you, Laurey Masterton.) And a tiny meme that has already begun to spin its creative magic is Mythter Joseph Campbell’s quote, “We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.” Joy for all. Joy for every every living snook, sniggle and snocker. Joy that spirals out like atoms and galaxies. Joy that cannot be stopped by greed or power or any army.

It was Jesus’ game: Love – no matter what. And that’s a meme.