Steak and Cheese
Joe Clark ~~ Mar 25, 2002

It has become apparent that I am a funny guy -- well, at least in some sense of the word. The folks at work used to call me "crazy freaky slow Java Joe", which implies some funniness. But now I think my unofficial title is "cheesy joke Joe" -- which seems to cement my place in the funny people hall of fame.

So, with this new title, I suppose I should take a few moments to reflect upon my new status. So here goes....

First of all, it's a mixed blessing to be thought of as funny. It's nice to have the attention as the one who does crazy things like that sideways click-your-heels jump in the hallway at work. It's nice to at least entertain the idea of not being a boring engineer. But there is also a responsibility that comes with being funny; specifically, to know when to shut off the funniness.

Obviously, there are times in life when being funny is not a correct course of action. I would enumerate, but I probably don't need to -- you can think of plenty of serious situations that require thoughtfulness rather than a joke. At these moments, a joke may not just be out of place, it may be thoroughly destructive, since it is at these troublesome, serious times when having the right words is most important.

I am reminded of a passage from that great bard's book Ecclesiastes:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven....
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.
(Ecc 3:1,4)

Thus there is a time for laughter, a time to be happy and jolly, even a time for cheesy jokes. But (as I have always been quick to point out) there is also a time for mourning, weeping, and in general thinking thoughtful thoughts -- contemplating the meat and meaning of life, or, the "steak" if you will.

There are many varieties of steak in life. There is one type of steak that deals with the sadness and bitterness in life. It is found often after the death of a loved one, the parting of close friends, the losing of one's job, and other similar events. Then there is a different type of steak, one that is perhaps the most nourishing of all. This is the steak of "higher thinking" or of "the beyond" as I've called it before (the thoughts of the beautification engineer). Found within this mode of thinking is a sort of laughter and joy all its own, but it's not the kind of cheese that I've been discussing thus far. This is a laughter that comes from the heart, not the mind. It is a laughter that is always tainted with realism. Cheesy laughter ignores reality and laughs in it's unreality and avoidance. Steak laughter embraces the realities of life, both good and bad, and finds joy in the midst of or in spite of the problems.

So in my smorgasbord of life, I want to keep a balance of these two forces: the humorous "cheese" of life just to keep from being boring, and the "steak" of life to keep myself grounded in reality and in the finer things of life. That balance is always a precarious one, but if we can find it I think we will find life fulfilling for ourselves, but also we will find it easier to help others be fulfilled as well.