When my youngest, Max, was 8, he could run off a string of complicated jokes like an old pro in the Catskills. Really, he could have become a regular on the Tonight Show. That good.
We loved to talk about what was funny. I asked him what a really, really great joke would do.
“People would laugh until they cried.”
Exactly. It was then that I came up with an idea that almost drove Max crazy. That wasn’t the purpose, of course, but that’s the way it worked out for awhile. I told Max there was such a thing as The Perfect Joke. It was so funny people would not be able to stop laughing, and therefor they would die. The perfect joke, in the wrong hands, could wipe out the planet.
And the thing was — I knew The Joke. But, of course, I couldn’t tell it to him because I loved him.
“I can take it. I promise I’ll be able to stop laughing.”
I explained that even if he could achieve that, which I seriously doubted, it would be too great a burden to put on him to give him that kind of power. If someone made him angry, he would be sorely tempted to tell The Joke. We went around on this for a few weeks until he reluctantly came to the realization that I, in fact, didn’t know the perfect joke. Sure, if you sensed he might have been a little relieved, you’d be right. But on another level, he was profoundly disappointed.
Which brings me to blogging. For anyone who writes regularly in the strange medium of the Web, you never know to what strange corners of the earth your thoughts are travelling, who is reading you, who gets what you’re trying to say, who hears you above the din. Except there’s a little feedback here and there when other websites pick you up, or someone makes a comment, or when you’re talking with someone about a completely isolated topic and out of the blue they mention they read something you wrote.
So what if someone writes the perfect blog post someday? What would happen if I, for instance, were to write a blog that was so edgy, so interesting, so stimulating, that the first person who stumbled across it was compelled to immediately retweet it to their 73 followers? And what if every single one of them also wanted to share it with everyone they knew? Would it be as dangerous as the perfect joke, with the potential to destroy the planet?
Could the Web take the stress? One, two, three billion repeats of the same post, rolling out in just a few days time. At first there might be attacks of server reflux. Sitting there in their black little racks, lights blinking away, a server might tremble, bravely attempt to catch up with the traffic, and then just be overwhelmed. Click! The server takes itself offline. At first it happens in isolated locations, but then before long there would be cascading failures at some of the massive solar-powered Google farms. (There would be a heightened danger if the really excellent blog was roaring through a Google farm in southern Oregon on a cloudy day, for instance.)
Then, servers all over the globe would switch in to pick up the load, and soon they, too, would be quickly overwhelmed as the charming, almost innocent little blog post was translated into more and more languages and dialects and its infectious blend of comedy, imagination, and piquancy turned out to work in virtually all cultures and all languages. It was not just a good little post, but verging on the perfect.
And even when the servers of entire nations collapsed in paroxysms of server reflux, brave individuals, unable to control their desire to share the post, would be compelled to copy it by hand, mount their camels, and race it across borders, driven to share their discovery.
Fortunately for me and Max and the world, I never came up with the perfect joke, and Max was spared that terrible burden. I have noticed, though, that a heavy overcast is forecast for southern Oregon this week. Probably nothing to worry about.