I took the above picture while wandering around Portsmouth, New Hampshire last night. At first I thought nothing about it. While it’s generally a clean city, Portsmouth is subject to litter now and then. I paused when I realized that it looked like somebody dropped the ice cream cone before getting halfway through it. It wasn’t just waste, but somebody losing their treat. I pictured some sad little kid crying over spilled ice cream. Then I noticed the wrapper that had only the word “JOY” written on it. I had to take a picture. There was something about it that just seemed perfect.
This is an image that I get stuck in my head whenever I want to feel sad: a child looses or breaks a favorite thing, and that child then cries over it. The image of a kid breaking a toy is one that gets me welled up myself, though I don’t know why.
Then I think about the naivete of the kid, and I get depressed. The kid cries because he lost his balloon, but gives no thought to the pollution, to the possible wildlife that might joke on it once it deflates and lands. A kid cries because her toy breaks, but not at the plight of the underpaid workers overseas to make it.* I can’t blame the kid. I don’t blame adults, either, but I don’t see them usually cry over the same things. At the same time, though, adults should give some thought of these things.
But that’s not really what this is about. I just like the image of the ice cream cone. A thing of pleasure is smashed on the sidewalk, thereby creating litter—a thing of displeasure. Having the word “JOY” written on it only rubs the message in. It’s on a city street, not in the ocean, and the only real litter was the wrapper which I’m sure is picked up by now. Putting all of that aside, the ice cream cone just represents a lot of how life goes.
Maybe it isn’t just children that this happens to. (For that matter, I don’t even know that it was a kid that dropped this particular ice cream cone in the first place.) Visualizing a child going through this is what makes me well up, but it happens to all of us.
But perhaps there’s a larger message here. The ice cream cone doesn’t just represent an aspect of life. It doesn’t just represent particular events in life. It represents life itself. I am the ice cream cone, and some day I will be bashed against the sidewalk. I am meant to believe that life is a happy thing, something that will bring JOY. At least, that’s what the wrapping says.
I want some ice cream now. It might not be good for me. The cows may have not been milked humanely. But it will bring me pleasure, which after all of that I might need.
*Nor does the child care about the poor dinosaurs that our ancient ancestors killed off so we could have oil, which in turn is used to make plastic. No, I don’t really believe that. But it’s a fun rumor to get started, isn’t it?