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Can it live forever? Will it live forever, outside of these physical husks of ours, our bodies? .and Jon Arbuckle, and Garfield, started merely as thoughts. but they’ve become so much more. That old cliché rings true, they’ve taken on a life of their own. and life may not be what we think. Life brings to mind a beating heart, breathing lungs, blinking eyes..but the real life is in our imaginations. and who better embodies the definition of imagination if not a simple man. a cartoonist, who puts his ideas to paper so that they may live on, so that our children, and our children’s children, and their children’s children’s children can access the wealth of ideas that have accumulated thus far.They will plug themselves into an information grid, and they will have access. They will read every Garfield comic, 80,000 years from now, a child will see a simple Jon Arbuckle, reading a newspaper. He will feel around for something, but that something is not there. He will lift his head and think.“Now where could my pipe be?”.and Garfield will be smoking the pipe, and Jon will yell “GARFIELD!”.and what then? 80,000 years from now?The child reading this comic will smile. and that smile will transcend space and time and the physical limitations of this existence, whatever they may be, however many dimensions exist.There will always be Garfield. and there will always be its creator.Jim Davis.
“It is through art, and through art only, that we can realize our perfection.” -Oscar Wilde
Jim Davis’ epistemological approach tells us something about the human condition; Jon’s thoughts remain the focal point of this strip. The comic is, quite literally, centered around his thought. “Now where could my pipe be?” This is his reality, this is where cognition, and the power and function of the mind take over. As Plato believed, the body is just a shell for Jon Arbuckle; yes, he can use his physical body to read his paper or cross his legs, but these inputs of touch, sight, hearing, et cetera, these senses are the triggers of the mind, as we see here, the mind. is something greater. It is the originator of ideas, and ideas are forever. Immortal. Immortality through thought, a. a major theme in literature and philosophy. .and isn’t that what Mister Jim Davis himself has achieved? Will he live forever? The universe will continue to spread, and spread outward, and. entropy will turn a chaotic infinity into a homogenous, controlled system. This will take billions of years, and in that time, humans will push technology to heights we can’t imagine. We’ll explore and inhabit space, and occupy more and more of the universe, just as time allowed our ancestors to. multiply in numbers, and populate more and more of the Earth. .and as the specific people come and go, their physical bodies will be born, and grow, and die. but their thoughts will remain. and Jim Davis’ comics, his glorious Garfield comics. are recorded ideas of his, that will still be here. Even when the Earth is no longer inhabitable, and humanity has long since moved away to bigger planets, they’ll carry with them a record, a record we all keep; mark my words. and look at what we’ve started, what is. What is the internet? What is the online world, if not a record? Never-ending feed of ideas, immortal ideas. forever placed in the ether of dualism. What is an idea? Where does it live? How does it manifest itself?
What are the telltale signs that inform Jon’s philosophical standpoint? His approach, what style of thinking he represents? Jon is depicted as being grounded in the material world. a world of things; he is surrounded by objects, and he touches these objects, he interacts with them. The newspaper, the end table, the chair. his clothes, all these physical things make up Jon’s world. In some sense, even his cat Garfield is an object to him, a thing. The first ideology that comes to mind when thinking of objects in the tangible world. is pragmatism. Is Jon Arbuckle a pragmatist? His beliefs stem from a useful, coherent view of his environment. a sort of cause-and-effect understanding of his world helps him. A: Deduce that his pipe is missing. and B: Catches his cat, Garfield, using the pipe. This kind of empirical and logical thinking lends credence to the idea that Jon is, indeed, a pragmatist. Although, it is hard to entirely ignore the rest of the Garfield comic canon. While Garfield is consistently anarchic, and embraces the chaos and absurdity of life. Jon Arbuckle exhibits an erratic, unpredictable mix of philosophical behaviors. At times, he is borderline; delusional, an idealist, an almost slap-happy version of Don Quixote. Other moments, he is rigid, nearly to the point of being obsessive. somewhat like a structuralist, and certainly has streaks of sarcasm and negativity that might classify him as a skeptic. .But isn’t there some universal truth in this approach? How can any one man, how can Jon Arbuckle be just one thing? How can any of us be just one thing? We’re. an amalgamation of ideas, of emotions. conducts and functions, thoughts and feelings. Jon Arbuckle may very well inhabit tenets of nearly every major philosophical tract known to man. We all might. Characters are reduced, to make them recognizable, definable; a story needs a good guy, a story needs a bad guy. but rarely is one person defined in such black and white terms.
I thought nothing of it; just a plumber, doing some work at the Municipal Court. but then he came out, and looked through his van, and it was clear. He couldn’t find something. I noticed, and thought, “Well, that’s sort of similar to the Garfield comic, in a way. Someone looks for something, can’t find it,”. but, yes, that probably happens billions of times a day around the world. .but then, this plumber. put his hands on his hips. then, he scratched his head, and he said aloud. “Now, where could my pipe wrench be?” Well, at this, I leaped off the bench, sandwich still in hand, and I rushed over, I shouted, “What was that you said!?” He looked at me and said, "What? I can’t find my pipe wrench, " and I said, “No! No, no, say it. like how you just said it.” He scratched his head, and repeated, “Now where could my pipe wrench be?” I slapped him on the back and said, “Garfield!” He looked so confused, so I said it again. then, I said “Your orange cat took it!” Heh. ah, then I laughed and laughed. and he smiled, and went back into the courtroom. I walked away, knowing that the plumber and I, two complete strangers, bonded over this Garfield comic. You see, life imitates art, becomes a common ground. I have a feeling that if I see this plumber again, we’ll be sharing stories like two old friends. because we’ve been united by art. We have a common love for Jim Davis and his characters, his writings. The humor, the drama, the. that rascal Garfield, the cat. Oh, and by the way, if you’re wondering what I was having for lunch that day, it was a ham sandwich with an apple and potato chips. in a bag, I had a soda as well. I think it’s important to view the Pipe Strip in philosophical terms. We’ve touched briefly on the notion of existentialism; that theme is very prevalent in this strip. Garfield is, in fact, a modern existential anti-hero. but if Garfield embodies the bewilderment in a meaningless life, what is Jon?
.and then, the payoff; the third panel, Garfield has Jon’s pipe, and is smoking it. But, aha! The paper is in a loop, around your head. so that you can see that, once again, Jon is in his seat, reading the paper. and so on, and so on, you can literally read the comic strip for an eternity! I spent many a relaxing Sunday afternoon reading this strip, over and over. reminded of the Portuguese death carvings, which always begin and end with the same scrawled image. [fig. 6b – Portuguese Death Carving c. 1330] So, this idea of repetition, of the beginning being the end, and the end being the beginning. It’s not new, it is an ageless tradition among the best storytellers humanity has ever offered. and I’m not wrong to include cartoonist Jim Davis in that exalted set for this particular strip alone I’m not foolish enough to deny that great art is subjective. divisive, even, and that some people see this Garfield comic and shrug with no real reaction. but I will say that I believe everyone in the world should see it; at the very least, see it! You should all see it. Read it. Spend some time with it. Spend an hour reading it. what’s an hour? Yes, you could watch some television program, you could play some fast-paced video games or computer games, yes, you could do all those things. But it’s just an hour. and if you give this strip a chance, if you look into Jon Arbuckle’s eyes. if you look into Jon Arbuckle’s SOUL. You might find that you’ll really be looking into your own soul. It is self discovery, that is what I’m talking about here. YOU have the opportunity, the possibility. it could change you. Don’t be afraid. You know, just last week, I was eating lunch near the Municipal Court. like I do every Thursday, and. there was a plumbing banner. a plumbing van, parked out in front, uh. and a man, a plumber, would step out from the court, and retrieve something from this every so often. A few times, this happened.
Comedy and tragedy complement each other, and meld together to create drama, tension, the height of humanity, the peak of art, that reflects back to us our own condition. .and here. in its basest form, we can laugh at this comic. yes, COMIC, in which a cat smokes a pipe. Hah. when was the last time you’ve SEEN such a thing in your life? Never, I presume. I certainly never have. The Greek muse, Thalia’s presence is strong in this work of art, here. Comedy, it is COMEDY. and if you look at the structure again, you’ll see this perfect form of thirds works magically for the transmission of, yes, YES, a JOKE. The joke.. is as old as time. even cavemen told jokes, and the joke here is that Jon has lost his pipe. or he thinks he has. but lo and behold, it is the cat, Garfield, who has the pipe. Surprise, surprise, the cat is smoking! Again, the transition, from set-up to punchline takes place between the second and third panels. but make no mistake, the comic is more than just a comic. Yes, it IS funny, of course it is. it is operating at the height of sophisticated humor, on par with any of Shakespeare’s piercing wit. On the one hand, Garfield the comic, with Jon the man, humor as art. the other hand, Garfield comic, with Jon the man, stirring. no, RIVETING drama. as with everything, it is tension, and release. TENSION. and RELEASE. A cycle. I keep returning to this idea, because it is so omnipresent. Yes, you could. and yes, I have done this, on more than one occasion. you could print this comic strip on a giant piece of paper. The dimensions would be something like. thirty-four inches by eleven inches. Now, tape the ends together, with the comic facing inward. Stick your head in the middle of this Garfield comic loop and READ, start at the first panel; Jon is reading the newspaper. he feels for something on the end table. Second panel; he sets the newspaper down, something is not right. “Where could my pipe be?” he thinks.
The idea that people, oftentimes, will bottle their rage. Garfield the cat, here. well, he could be bottling his anger, inside, shoving it deep into his cat gut, to ignore and deal with at a later time. Eh, well. No, that’s not exactly right. Garfield has already acted out, he’s already stolen the pipe. he’s SMOKING the pipe, he’s already dealt with his anger. He’s already lashed out, so, psychologically, what is going on here? What is this cat doing, and how does it impact his owner, Jon Arbuckle. psychologically? Well, Garfield is angry. He is acting on his anger. but is this passive anger, or aggressive anger? Passive. It is passive because if Garfield has a problem with Jon specifically. he’s choosing a passive way of dealing with that problem. He has not confronted Jon, and said, “Jon, I have a problem with the way you’ve decorated this room; as a cat, I am colorblind, and this room sends me into a rage. You’ve created a rage room for me here, and I don’t like it; I want you to change it.” Instead of that confrontational approach, though, Garfield has chosen to steal Jon’s pipe. and that, in turn, angers Jon. but Jon decides to be aggressively angry, and yell at Garfield, so. now, instead of a calm conversation between two respectful parties, you have two. heated, angry individuals, each with a problem and no direct line to solving it. The layered emotions here tell a story with tight, focused brevity that would make Hemingway weep. This is an entire drama, in just three panels, people. .but let’s not be remiss, and miss the humor of the situation, the. absurdity of it all. for certainly, there is a reason that the visual shorthand for drama includes both the crying mask AND a laughing mask.
“Like this! Like this! Look, at this here! This cat, Garfield, he’s colorblind, he must be! That must be the answer here. like this.” As over-excited as I was, I managed to take in her response; she said “Yes, a cat in this room would have a hard time differentiating the wall from the floor. Add to that a cat’s known spatial confusion, and you have the makings of a Cat Rage room.” Now, she informed me that this isn’t exactly common knowledge among cat owners. but a seasoned cat owner, or someone particularly perceptive will have picked up on it. So what’s incredible here is not only is Garfield’s behavior symbolic of the devil, and all the evil constructs in the world, but. but, but. but also, it is rooted in science and scientific fact. Look at that. You cannot spell fact without “cat”. Hah, just a little joke there. just some wordplay, but getting back on track. .and you can’t spell track without “cat.” Okay. I digress. I gotcha, I gotcha, enough. kidding around. It is established here that Garfield is in a rage; an ultimate rage of fury and hatred, caused by colorblindness. We know the “what”, we know the “why”. but let us examine the “how”, the how of his rage is particularly interesting here. We’ve looked at his posture and called it “powerful”, “in control”, “statuesque”, “etc., etc.” Composed rage. It’s peculiar, and I’ve talked to a number of psychologists and psychiatrists, and even a couple of anger management therapists about this concept. Could we see the same kind of behavior in a human? Is Garfield representative of something more specific than just chaos and rage? Deciphering this is going to take some perseverance. for sure. The psychologists pointed to a phenomenon in humans, and, yes, I believe one of the anger management counselors brought it up as well.
The date was July 12th, 1983. There it was. The Sahib Strip, in all its glory. The girl had been drawing the next day’s strip! So, I ran right out of my house, I ran back to where she was. but she was gone, and in place of the lemonade stand was a “For Sale” sign. They’d moved out. I rushed back to my house to call Avram, but. I was informed that he’d moved away as well. I reeled, for several hours, and then it all connected for me. It was meant to be. It w. it was meant to be this way! Jim Davis. Jon, Garfield. It was always meant to be this way for me.. They move to the forefront, and everything else fades away, EVERYTHING else; the girl, the lemonade stand, Avram Dahb Singh Sahib, it all existed to show me the way, and when I’d found the way. Everything else melted away. It was a beautiful miracle. and if July 27th, 1978, the day I first saw the pipe strip. was the first day of my life, then that day, July 12th, 1983, was the second day of my life. I’ve never looked back. Garfield has transformed me. and I am a man, born anew, because of Garfield. When I was in my mid-thirties, I was interviewed for a documentary. It was a documentary on the subject of cat behavior. Now, I’ve had cats my whole life; I have three cats now, and at the time of this documentary interview, I had four cats. I sat down for the interview and was joined by a veterinarian who specialized in felines: Doctor Caroline Wellmitz was her name, I believe. and the doctor discussed colorblindness in animals, and how it affects their behavior. She specifically brought up the fact that cats are red-green colorblind; they can see colors, but they can’t tell the difference between red and green .and look at the color choice in this strip here. Garfield sits on a green floor, behind a pinkish red wall. I heard this, and I immediately pulled a copy of the comic from my wallet to show to the doctor. I moved so fast, I’m sure I nearly scared her, I. pointed at the paper and said,