Garp and substance

Sometimes, thinking back to a much earlier time of life and the existential ponderings that seemed to occupy so much of it, I like to recall one special gem of youthful insight that proved wise beyond its years. I thank my brother Jim for introducing me to it.

It is the concept of garp. (Please note that this was fully a decade before the John Irving novel.)

Garp, we are to understand, is a theoretical meta-substance that enters our world as a by-product of non-essential human activity. Basically, this includes any extraneous busy-ness in our lives other than:

A) sleeping, or
B) loving.

There’s an obvious and understandable temptation to include eating in this short list. However, it appears that even eating carries with it a considerable garpogenic potential, and is therefore suspect. (As I recall, Jim began to explain this to me in greater detail, but then the pizza was ready.)

Garp has several distinctive properties that identify it. Garp is not directly detected by any of the five senses, but we often are aware of it on some level, aware that it is all around us. Under the right circumstances, often very fleeting, garp may be perceived as sort of cold, colorless, granular stuff, with a tendency to accumulate in the corners of things in persistent little drifts.

The basic correlation between garp and behavior is nicely linear: the more non-essential the activity, the greater the amount of garp generated. This can be referred to as the inanity principle. Or, if you prefer the simpler inverse, just “anity principle.” That is, the more ane the behavior, the less garp it leaves.

Sometimes, we might even swear that there are entire individuals made of garp, but this generally coincides with periods of our own overexposure to it. It follows, then, that if we force ourselves to revisit the essentials, we’ll be able to elude this sneaky form of misanthropy.

Best course of action: take a nap, or give your sweetie a squeeze, or even better, do both.

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