The current holder of the much coveted title of "Asker of the One Truly Serious Philosophical Question" is Albert Camus (5’ 7”, 162lb) with “why don’t we all kill ourselves?”. And sure, Camus does get you for a minute, “why don’t we all kill ourselves?”. But the italics reveal the fundamental flaw with his question - it is built on a foundation of negative energy, man. You could even call it the fundamental floor, so firmly are the entire walls and roof Camus’ question grounded in this negative foundation.
When rephrased with the benefit of a positive mental attitude, the question becomes “why do we all kill ourselves?”. The answer is obvious: we are unhappy with life. To progress further we require the most powerful instrument of philosophical inquiry known to man: the five-year-old child. The five-year-old child asks why? Life hasn’t worked out for us. Why? Now we bifurcate. There are two possibilities: 1) Because we have chosen the wrong path and 2) Because bad things have happened to us. I will dismiss option the second because people who answered thus do not believe they are in control of their own lives, so cannot yet benefit from the insight that “would you rather be a dog or a frog?” provides.
Returning to the first branch - because we chose the wrong path - and tempting our five-year-old child back with the promise of free Dib Dabs (there are no Dib Dabs, sorry) we can resume. Why did we choose the wrong path? We were unaware we were choosing the wrong path. Why? Because the choice was not made explicit. Ch*#ce!! A small joke.
But I am only humouring Camus by following this line of reasoning. I do not for a single minute accept that “why don’t/do we all kill ourselves” is the the only important philosophical question. Had he not considered - in all his quiet sitting and thinking, all his years of philosophising and navel gazing - the earth-trembling ramifications of “would you rather be a dog or a frog?”.
And so we return to the question in hand, having crumpled Camus and discarded his musings with but an inward slight of the fingers and a limp flick of the wrist. Ask any man or woman and everyone wants to be a dog: well groomed fur, a nice house, friends, a warm bed to sleep in. And this seems reasonable. Ask a child and you get a more mixed response: the lure of the frog is tempting. The freedom, the high jumping, the self sufficiency, the pond, the reeds, the inflatable throat pouch.
But as children get older they do not realise they are answering this question - making this choice - every day. Pretty soon they end up as comfortable dogs obeying their master for treats and pets and “who’s a good boy? Yes you are. Yes you are a good boy. Yes you are.” Without thinking, they have ended up a dog.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to be a good boy as much as the next sinner but I don’t need some petit bourgeois family rhetorically questioning my status as the aforementioned moral male and patting my head. I know I am a moral male by the decisions I have made as a sweaty toad. I have given my pond weed to those less fortunate frogs. I have saved tasty looking worms for the neighbourhood birds. I have waited my turn on the diving board. I am a good boy by virtue of my actions.
Conversely, a dog may well be a good boy but he is only so at his masters hand. The dog suppresses all his natural urges: to shit and piss where he likes, to bark long into the night, to hump other canines regardless of breed or sex. He is very much Pavlov’s dog for Pavlov owns him and controls everything he does. He cannot be his own good boy, his own moral male. He is Pavlov’s dog and must live his life according to Pavlov’s moral code.
Pavlov, or anyone else for that matter, would never consider training a frog for his twisted purpose. Frogs are too stupid. Too dirty. Too cold and wet. And herein lies their strength. What appears a weakness to the causal observer, allows amphibians to be their own master, to live in a muddy hole, to dive as much as they desire. The world is there lily pad. They live on land and water. Jump, leap and croak. They can swim in any pond they like and are free to hop away at the inflation of a pouch.
Having taken the dog psychology world by storm Pavlov, not wanting to be a one hit wonder, turned his attention to other fields or, more accurately, ponds. Everyday he would bring some dead flies down to the pond on a bone china plate, ring his bell and scuttle back to his observation point in a nearby bush.
The frogs didn’t give a single ribbit. Well, at first they were cautious of old man Pavlov. He was, after all, larger than them and it is always wise to be wary of those larger than oneself. But soon they realised he was a stupid old man with a bell and continued swimming, basking and mating. What joy!
Sometimes a frog would humour Pavlov and approach the plate of flies and stick out his tongue. Pavlov's eyes would light up. He would lean forward, ringing his bell furiously. Then the frog would inflate his throat pouch and release a mighty fart. Pavlov, would jump back and fling his bell over his head, which came crashing down and set off all the dogs in the neighbourhood. What a bell end.
All of this Pavlov dutifully recorded. These frogs are stupid, thought Pavlov. The food is right there and yet they just stick their tongues out and fart. Perhaps they are blind. To test his hypothesis, he captured a frog with his specialised frog-catching apparatus, pulled a specialised frog-shining torch from his pocket, flicked it on and shone it in the captured amphibian’s eyes. “Piss off Pavlov,” said the frog. “First your incessant ringing and now with the light. Go run around outside. Go for a swim. Eat, drink and be merry. Sleep with beautiful women. Heck, sleep with ugly women for all I care, just piss off!” And he enunciated these last two words to make absolutely certain Pavlov heard. But Pavlov had never bothered to learn Frog and continued waving his torch in the creature’s eyes. He doesn’t seem to like that, thought Pavlov.
Pavlov is stupid, thought the frogs. We are not dogs, we are frogs!. We do what we want. We don’t respond to the ringing of bells. We don’t go out at the designated time for walks. We walk to our own schedule, sometimes not at all. They inflated their throat pouches.
Pavlov continued his experiments for some years until he suffered a particularly bad wrist strain – a result of too strenuous bell ringing of one kind or the other – and was hospitalised. In hospital he was introduced to one of the fashionable infections from Southern Europe that were going around at the time. He coughed and spluttered and complained about a pain in his chest for a few weeks, but the doctors and nurses were a little busy getting to grips with the new filling system that had just been implemented and didn’t have time to investigate his moans to the fullest extent. On his death-bed, he thought back over his days. He thought about ringing the bell and shining the light. He heard his own bell, saw his own light and salivated his own saliva. He let out a long horse sigh and gave into the bell. Gave into the light. The frogs continued sunbathing as before. The dog died since no one was around to feed it.
the myth of sisywoof
Camus had heard a rumour that dogs need exercise and, realising that by keeping the dog in his house he was depriving him of such, decided to take Sisywoof for a walk. They proceeded to the park, sticking to the designated footpaths with Sisywoof walking dutifully at Camus’ pace for some time. Suddenly Sisywoof noticed something across the park and his instincts kicked in. He bounded to the delicious looking Labradoodle, sniffed her bum, inhaled the sickly sweet fragrance and, smelling that it was good, mounted her like a virtual CD-ROM drive - with some messing about with the options.
“Sisywoof, no! Bad Sisywoof!” shouted Caums. Sisywoof looked around, saw his master, forgot him instantly and continued plunging the depths of the pleasure well. Camus pulled a small television remote from his pocket, pressed a button, sending a signal through the air which, on reaching Sisywoof’s collar, sent an sharp electric shock through the dog’s veins. Sisywoof whimpered, dismounted and returned to his master; ears down, tail between his legs, a glint of human sadness in his eyes. “This is not the designated time, nor specified location, for mating Sisywoof. You are a bad dog.” Sisywoof averted his eyes, submitting to Camus’ will. Camus forgave him and they continued on their walk.
Soon they reached a large hill. Sisywoof had been here before. Yesterday and the day before and the day before that. Camus withdrew a tennis ball from his pocket and one of those ball launcher things, loaded the launcher and launched the ball to the top of the hill. Sisywooof chased after the ball, grabbed it in his mouth at the top and bounded back down to Camus, who promptly reloaded the launcher and launched it again.
The process continued until Camus got bored and went home. The dog had had a great time, stuck his tongue out and wagged his tail. I am a good boy, thought Sisywoof. Yes I am. Yes I am.