There used to be a lot of newspaper cartoons about stranded castaways on tiny islands tossing bottles containing messages into the sea. These cartoons are less common these days. The message in a bottle theme is both amusing and puzzling to me.
The amusing part is that the sketches provide a vessel for a one-liner joke. A puzzling thing is where do the poor souls get bottles, paper, and pens?
Another puzzling part of the cartoons is what, besides requesting aid, is included in the message in a bottle. Do the castaways include coordinates to enable rescuers to locate the victim? The older cartoons mostly appeared before the invention of GPS or locater devices.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have over analyzed the cartoons. Maybe I should just laugh at the sight gags, then let them go. My excuse is, I acquired the habit of analyzing things like cartoons and pop culture from dad. One of his frequent sayings was, “That doesn’t make sense.”
Could it be that depictions of castaways tossing out messages in bottles tickles our funny bones because the scenario touches tender spots in our minds? Isn’t it true that much of our humor is based upon unfortunate events, mistakes, and embarrassing situations?
On its face, being a castaway comes from a terrible event like a ship capsizing or an airplane crash. If this happened to us, we would be horrified and feel very helpless and afraid for our survival. Being stranded on an isolated, unknown island in the middle of an ocean is a situation nobody wishes for themselves.
Of course the message in a bottle theme is not only found in cartoons, it’s sometimes an element in serious literature and drama. In any case, isn’t it true that the message in a bottle is a metaphor about life’s circumstances?
Are there times when you feel isolated and alone in the sea of humanity? Don’t you often feel frustrated that there is nobody out there who really, honestly understands what you’re about? Isn’t there the fear that we will perish without anyone receiving the messages of our lives? Are these questions at the heart of the message in a bottle theme?
Sometimes I look at social media and interpret the posts, tweets, and so forth as bottles containing messages from people wanting or needing to be discovered. There are millions of isolated beings who believe their only tools are the electronic devices that access the Web.
Maybe, in a sense, we’re all castaways wanting to be rescued or at least have our deepest messages received and understood. What a joy it is when somebody picks up the bottle, removes the slip of paper, and reads the message.