The Trailer of Life and Death

At the end of a night of drinking in Cambridge, the drunk head to the centre, Market Square, for late night food before their stumble home. The two available choices for food are trucks that only appear at night and disappear to parts unknown during the day. Both of them are a perfect mix of satisfaction and greasy self-destruction. They are exactly what you want at this time.

One of these trucks is called The Trailer of Life.

The name of the other one doesn’t matter. The other truck is colloquially referred to as The Trailer of Death (its name is actually very mundane, it doesn’t matter). The beautiful irony is that both of the trucks are quite unhealthy, so calling them either The Trailer of Life or The Trailer of Death is very irrelevant. I’ve heard belligerent arguments for one or the other a couple of times.

This entire situation is funny and makes me happy that it exists.

I just finished reading Voltaire’s Candide, a novel that satirizes the notion that we may live in “the best of all possible worlds”. It must have been a rough time for Christian philosophers in the 16th century trying to reconcile the shittiness of everyday life with an omnipotent and benevolent God. I’m an atheist for all practicality’s sake, and a deist at the very minimum, so trying to correlate the whims of an omnipotent and benevolent being with everyday life is irrelevant to me. When I read other philosophers, such as Thomas Hobbes and his depressing notion of the “state of nature”, I feel that, too often, values of “good” or “bad” are applied to parts of our world. As a scientist, rushing to describe something as good or bad seems to be a mistake when we haven’t even properly described or understood them yet. As far as I am concerned, nothing is inherently good or bad.

But is the universe we live in good? You can say lots of negative things about it. We die, we feel pain, we experience love and loss of it and people hate each other blah blah blah. This is all fairly shitty and as far as I am concerned the only way to avoid these things with absolute certainty is to create individual solipsist gardens.

Eric Idle’s book The Road to Mars talks about comedy as the all/only-powerful anti-death anti-shitty force in the universe. One of his characters comes to the epiphany that you can make fun of absolutely anything. And that is beautiful. This idea has been very influential to me, and I ponder it whenever I’m not feeling so great.

The fact that there is a Trailer of Life and an adjacent colloquial Trailer of Death and that there are several layers of meaning in there and it’s all fairly funny confirms to me that this is a universe that I want to live in, and despite the potential for shittiness all the time, there is hope for beauty. And that is worth living for.