Maybe the seriousness didn’t last because Murray found nothing in his search for meaning. The term “the razor’s edge” is derived from the Upanishads, a series of ancient texts upon which Hinduism was founded. I’m one of five people who actually own and have read the Upanishads, and let me tell you—there’s nothing there. It’s a hodgepodge of aphorisms about the supernaturally powerful “oneness” of man. And its ethical lessons are about as squishy as a Julia Roberts movie. Sure, it gets some good zingers in there, but the book’s real seriousness only comes from the stern asceticism you must practice merely to get through it. Just because ideas are old and from the other side of the world doesn’t mean they’re serious.
When you make an earnest effort to live an examined life and all you find are the proverbial muddied waters, what else is there to do? Show up to a bar and buy everyone a shot of tequila, I suppose.
It’s no wonder Bill Murray has become the Gen Y mascot. We too yearn for a serious life, but those who go searching find nothing. Heavy discussions about right and wrong quickly evaporate into shallow arguments about have and have-not. Serious thinking, when socialization is paramount, turns into serious feeling. A mind powerful enough to make sense of existence is also powerful enough to emasculate itself. Perceptions trump thought and sensations trump perceptions.
When confronted with true value, like a Werner Herzog film, we enjoy it through a smirk. It’s an anomaly. It’s too didactic. It’s too heavy-handed. What’s Herzog getting at when he strives to know why humans ride horses and chimps don’t? Oh, that’s just silly Uncle Werner. Now read Go the Fuck to Sleep so we can giggle at your accent.
In The Man Who Laughs, Victor Hugo says about clowns: “To be comic without and tragic within—what suffering can be more humiliating, what pain deeper?” Bill Murray may be charming, fun, and he may not give a fuck, but that’s another way of saying he’s as happy as a clown. As Gen Yers go through the motions of seriousness and come up empty-headed, we presume Murray might be on to something. Like our mascot, we’re slowly learning not to care, and we’ll be playing the fiddle soon enough.
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