Author’s note

 

Nothing is Better – Nothing is better than prayer. Nothing is better than love. Nothing is better than life. Nothing is better than happiness. Nothing is better, nothing is best. – Zachary

 

The Courier – “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” So goes the motto of the United States Postal Service. This service, enshrined along with slavery, in the United States Constitution, is of political contention during this polemic era. Under question is whether the USPS should be an institution for the benefit all or if it should be determined by political considerations, or better yet privatized and controlled by the wealthy solely for profit. None of this is of concern for Stoke, unaware of the dedication of the employees of the organization constitutionally committed to the delivery of the mail and any written words of citizens. Regardless of anything, including this knowledge, the philosophy and message of Stoke remains the same. “Nothing matters.” A message delivered through cold and deluge and desert and the hopelessness of night. No weather nor circumstance can change the meaninglessness and purposelessness of the Nihileaf. Such dedication does Stoke have to nihilism! There are those that can be swayed by hope or love or philosophy or ideology, but not Stoke and not this writer and perhaps not even you, the reader. The Courier is the universe, along with its cold, uncaring, heartless reality, and the message is the destiny of nothingness. The apt aphorism , one I hope you keep in mind, is ‘don’t shoot the messenger’. – Zachary

 

Starless – According to the legend of Fatima, there was an apparition of the holy, virginal mother of god and a miracle performed wherein the sun danced around in the sky for thousands to witness in that early twentieth century Portuguese village. Mother Nature, not in a refutation of Fatima though certainly a similar and opposing corollary, performs an apparent miracle for Mungi by extinguishing simultaneously all the starlight. If not for Mother Nature’s luminescence there would be absolute darkness, though that eventually descends as she leaves. Mungi is, at least momentarily, in complete darkness, perhaps the only cause of unhappiness, depression, and sadness for Mungi. Mother Nature, in mercy that is not unlike what is attributed to Mary, lights up the night sky with stars again. The miracle, or rather demonstration, over. There is no explanation to Mungi, or us for that matter, as to the reason for the spontaneous show or the lesson behind it. Perhaps there is none. Though it does serve as a reminder that the end of the universe is complete darkness, even though it may be as far as trillions of years away. If one would like to imagine this oneself, all that is needed is to wait for night, draw the blinds, turn off any lights, and close one’s eyes. Voila, that is what the fate of the universe looks like! – Zachary

 

Vishnu – Oppenheimer’s famous words are haunting to hear. Unrelated, and thought-provoking rather than haunting, is the following from Carl Sagan as he reflects on an image, shot from the distant Voyager 1 spacecraft, of the Earth suspended in a light beam, 

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar”, every “supreme leader”, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam… Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot… Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. 

I thought of this passage, its powerful words describing our rock, as I created a supernova that consumed countless planets, stars, and solar systems, with many similar to ours. There were numerous home worlds just like the one Sagan described above, which have now become consumed in the fires from an indifferent star’s death (caused not by Raven, but by a capricious Creator). Innumerable beings, species, and life forms perished in this comic. The scope of destruction and tragedy is nearly unimaginable, what I think of is everything described by Sagan obliterated many times over. One may ask why or for what was this supernova for. To which I can only reply there was no reason. It just happened, and for fear of developing a god complex, I too can now say “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I can only imagine that Stoke wishes to have been engulfed as well and returned to stardust. – Zachary

 

Drifting – In contrast to the previous comic where Brump is on still water, in this comic Brump is drifting. The results are much, if not entirely, the same. In this case Brump moves from one pointless place to another, nearly identical pointless place. If Brump had journeyed to a different place with a new and exciting flora and fauna, it would still be a pointless place. Whether one remains still, drifts, or proactively travels, it seems meaninglessness still travels with you and remains inescapable. Or one travels only to find meaninglessness. I can empathize with Brump, my life often feels like it is meaninglessly drifting from one place to another. There is one thing that does give me, if not hope or optimism, then at least a semblance of accomplishment. It is the knowledge, in a given week, regardless of what I have not achieve or completed, that the Earth, along with myself on it, hurls in space over ten million miles through the vast and awe-inspiring universe. As we go about our days and lives, we too drift on a metaphorical river of life. And, for what it is worth, Brump also traverses millions of miles, on the home planet of the Nihileafs, over the course of any given seven days. This, of course, is of no comfort as it is still a meaningless voyage. – Zachary

 

Stillwater – A bee, a dragonfly, a fairy, an eagle, and life all fly Brump by. Life has passed me by too. Here it is and now it’s gone. Water is forever flowing, or at the very least trapped in a circle of evaporation, condensation, rain, runoff, and evaporation. Even water not flowing and contained as still water is still moving and making its way through the water cycle! And even in the city of Stillwater things are flowing and changing and happening. For Brump, life is just an unmoving waste. How long Brump is stuck in still water, I do not know. Time has passed and it will never be returned. The length matters not. What I do know, though, is that once the waters start flowing again and Brump finally continues floating on, life will still be purposeless and pointless. Not even water, the source of all life as we know it, whether it is unmoving or flowing, can infuse life with a drop of meaning. – Zachary

 

Driftless – Since the last comic I wrote, I’ve lost my job. Ironic since my last note lamented the hatred I had for my job. Now I have no job, yet I continue to have no meaning in life. I did not gain any purpose in my unemployment, though neither did I lose purpose by becoming unemployed. Life is purposeless and mine has long felt that way, for at least many, many years and before that I wasn’t wise enough to know it was meaningless. But without purpose and meaning, no matter how fake or fabricated of one that I may one day create for myself, do I then forever remain without direction. I doubt it is even possible to have direction in this existence, trying to swim against the chaos of the motion of matter and the irreversible, unstoppable passage of time. I suspect all direction is an illusion, though I can imagine to have one is a comfort. And further!… even if I had direction, I would still have no hope. – Zachary

 

Sirens of Suicide – The sirens in this comic are a rendition of how my mind oftentimes calls out to me. – Zachary

 

Blackout – I did not blackout last night. I didn’t even think of this comic last night, rather it was many weeks ago. I don’t know why, but I felt that was important to say. I have blacked out before. In fact I did blackout last night, but it was from sleep, not alcohol. That biological necessary loss of conscious that afflicts us all. It is possible that I thought of this comic the morning after blacking out. Or maybe it was during a night of heavy drinking where I thought of the concept of blacking out, but didn’t quiet. I don’t remember thinking of the comic, just the comic itself. As mentioned alcohol was involved. I don’t like blacking out. You’d think that would stop me from drinking. It doesn’t. I try to avoid blacking out, but not by slowing down my drinking. A paradoxical balancing act. I do enjoy sleep though. As for Stoke, there was enjoyment in blacking out. After all has Stoke ever said something was nice before? It almost doesn’t seem like something Stoke would say and it is telling what it was said about. Stoke should enjoy the brief reprise from sentience. After all it is rare relief and for Stoke it is going to be a long existence. – Zachary

 

Drunkard – I felt sorry for the drunkard on the beach, who originally only had a single bottle to drink. I gave him another one. This is to enjoy the night with. Lucky him. I’m at the end of my wits… and bottle of rum. It wasn’t all drunk today, though the beers beforehand certainly helped with the already half full bottle. Or should I say half-empty. There is a metaphor in this comic. I don’t know what. Maybe you will. The drunkard and the Nihileaf, the alcoholic and the nihilist. They make quiet the companions, and comparison. Their lives equally as important, which is to say not. Their meaning and accomplishments the same, which is to say absent. The next morning is unenviable. Hungover for the anthropoid, life for the plant. Both ultimately destined for nothingness. Where to go from here? I don’t know. I would say enjoy existence, but that doesn’t sound right. Perhaps there is something more. Then again, perhaps not. – Zachary

 

Dust in the Wind – The song Dust in the Wind by Kansas has a been on my mind recently. So too is a short passage by Carl Sagan, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” Hence the comic, it is both pilferage and homage, simultaneously theft and imitation. Of course it is not Stoke doing this act, but I. Stoke has never heard of such music, the beautiful lyrics therein, nor the science writer’s profound wisdom. Stoke is only saying what he believes of the Nihileafs, of existence itself. Everything is nothing more than molecules moving about subject to the immutable laws of nature. If Stoke had a conversation with Mother Nature, I imagine Stoke would say something like this, “I don’t mind that we are nothing more than matter being battered about by forces beyond our control, but did you have to make us thinking too.” Thinking dust, that is all we are and ever will be. – Zachary

 

Sea or Sky – One, if by sky, two, if by sea. Should not the Narrator know if what is being observed is sky or sea? Is the Narrator asking a rhetorical question? Or is it a philosophical one? Is the question to profound for us to understand or is it genuine curiosity? Does the Narrator ever get an answer? Does it matter? – Zachary

 

Against Nature – Mother Nature herself is no help in resolving the question of free will vs determinism. I suspect though that as the sun has no say in its travels through the universe, that we, subject to the same law of physics, have no choice in our lives. Free will would thus be an illusion, or rather a delusion. An ideology that some have been fated to believe in and others to not. What can one do? I think live our lives the best we can, whether free will exists or not. Of course we may have no choice in the matter. Now the topic turns to my life. A recent conversation I had with my sister turned to the topic of depression. I asked her what she thought was the cause of our family’s seeming prevalence of depression, did she think it was from nurture or nature? And the wit of my sister responded with ‘Both’  – Zachary 

 

Wasted Year – The last year of my life has been wasted. For no reason and nothing to show for it. A little over a year ago I quit my well-paying job, that was all but mastered, and moved cities. I suppose I was looking for meaning or purpose or a cause or just to escape. I had intended to accomplish much in the past year. Part of the plan was to finally publish Nihileafs alongside my co-creator, a few years after its original inception, but it never happened and the comics created were sporadic and too few. Nihileafs and not writing anywhere near enough have been my biggest regrets of the last year. And before that as well, although in my life I do have a few regrets bigger than not writing (our regrets are our morals, sometimes I wonder if I should have different regrets and better morals). It is no comfort knowing that Brump didn’t write anything in the intervening year either. When I reflect on the past year and what wasn’t, I suspect perhaps I should’ve stayed in my last job a little longer and saved a lot more. And now I have a worse job and less money and fewer friends and still nothing accomplished. As a reaction to my failings, I’ve made the Nihileafs waste a year. I’m sorry to have done it to them, I know what it is like to waste a year. I suppose I’m sorry for their lives too. Though what does it say about me that I won’t make them any less unhappy or lonely or driftless? It crosses my mind now that they might have better lives than mine… no, no, I’m just being melodramatic. I don’t know where to go, both in writing this note and in life. A good start would be to write more and create more Nihileaf comics. It’s just I fear this year will be wasted as the last one was. Then again all years are wasted. – Zachary

 

Created Unhappy – We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Nihileafs are created unnecessarily, that they are endowed by their Creators with certain unalterable Traits, that among these are purposelessness, meaninglessness, and the Fate of Nothingness… – Zachary

 

Unhappy Creator – If happiness isn’t found in this world, then maybe it will be in the next. But what if god was unhappy? Sitting there in an eternity of misery, omnipotent in all things except the power to be happy. Well all powerful except in happiness and suicide. Poor, unfortunate god couldn’t even kill himself to end the misery. Or maybe he could, perhaps after creating the universe our creator killed himself. He could’ve created everything and then with his final breath said ‘Let there be light’, but not have the power to say ‘Let there be happiness’. There are many tragedies worse than unhappiness, but it is still sad to see both in man and in god. I suspect a creator’s fate must be to make and then die, sometimes by suicide. This unhappy little world is all that we will get. Brump will do well to learn that, Stoke already understands. And if Brump is unhappy, then Brump would do well to know that the Nihileafs were made in their Creators’ image. – Zachary

 

Who is Happiness – “I’m asking you who’s on first.” “That’s the man’s name.” “That’s who’s name?” “Yes.” “Do you have a doctor?” “Yes.” “Who?” “Doctor Who.” “Who?” “Doctor Who.” “Doctor Who.”  “Yes” “Your doctor is Who?” “Yes.” “You don’t want who on second?” “Who is on first base.” “I don’t know.” “Third base!” (together). Who, what, where, when, and why. I remember learning about nonsensical questions in high school, perhaps it was in philosophy, perhaps literature, and it was asked to our developing and easily impressionable minds whether it was possible there was no meaning to the question ‘Is the sky blue?’ What a thought to have to contemplate in high school! And to have also read Turgenev. So more than a decade later, I asked “Is blue octagonal?” And around the group everyone answered yes or no. As the questioner, I responded last to my own inquiry. See we were playing something called the Philosophy Game. You asked a philosophy question to the group and in clockwise order everyone would response either yes or no. No elaboration was allowed, unless you spent a point to ask someone to expand upon their answer or you spent a point to pontificate on your own question. No one asked me to expand. Why? I wondered. Afterall, it’s a game where the questions are made up and the points don’t matter and nothing matters. And “Whose line is it anyways?” “I don’t know.” “Third base!” (together). For all the thought they gave my non sequitur, their answers were meaningless, so was my response. I don’t remember if I chose yes or no. But didn’t they want to know why I asked the question? See inquisitive reader, it was to highlight the meaninglessness of philosophy, the absurdity of questions, to force a yes or no answer to something that wasn’t a yes or no question, to say something nonsensical for the sole sake of nonsense. Well if they didn’t care to inquire, then following the leadership of Bill Clinton I thought, ‘Don’t ask. Don’t tell.’ Later in the game the question was “Are smarter people more depressed?” And around the room we went and I said ‘No’. Then I was asked to elaborate on my negative. I thought, why on this question and not on mine? “And who asked?” “I don’t know.” “Third base!” (together). In response to such a trite and piffle question, I ranted. I expounded how I couldn’t possibly answer that question affirmatively even if it might be true. I didn’t have the evidence to support such a proposition and that I knew of no known correlation between intelligence and happiness. I went off on tangents about science and conclusions and observations. I raved. But what I left unsaid was the truth. I was lying! I didn’t want everyone to know the darkness of my mind. I do believe that intelligence causes depression, whether I have evidence for it or not, that the smarter one is invariably the more likely they are to be depressed. Intelligent people, if they are not deluding themselves, will realize the pointlessness of existence. That actions are meaningless. That entropy is all-consuming. That hopelessness is inevitable because our deaths are unavoidable. That cause and effect dictate our actions, that our demise is only the end to a predetermined life. That happiness is nowhere to be found. “Who is Happiness?” “Happiness is on first base.” – Zachary

 

A Short Day in a Long Life – Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and the longest night. The day, no more meaningful than any other, is the quickest of the year. The night, longer than any other, also has no more meaning than any other. Tomorrow will soon come and the universe will go on. – Zachary

 

Empty Home – The turtle dies in the last comic, which is unwritten as of writing this comic. The punchline is already made, but the joke, many comics in the making, is unfinished. Perhaps it is not funny, perhaps emptiness is nothing to laugh at, perhaps there is no joke. It matters not. What I’m about to say seems to me unfitting for this author’s note, but it is what is on my mind. And that is nothingness. Nothingness and death. Nothingness in death. The meaninglessness of existence, the meaninglessness of nonexistence. The meaninglessness of everything, comics included. What confronts us is what we fear, and for some of us what we also yearn. For others that which is hoped to never come. There is no way to avoid it and once it is here no end to it. And the only thing that can stave off the vast expanse of nothing is one small comfort, however insignificant. The inconsequential thing with the power to ward off nothingness, if only temporarily and barely. A singular defense against the singularity of death. It is not warmth, nor light, nor happiness, nor love. It is simply humor.  – Zachary

 

Heart Attack – If home is where the heart is and one dies of a heart attack, does that mean homesickness was the cause of death? It has been a few months since I started writing the arc with the turtle and many weeks since the last comic. In fact the comic with the hollow shell has already been written, all that remained left was to kill the turtle. Though the turtle is dead, he had yet to die and I to kill him. It has been in the back of my mind ever since to ensure the deed was finished. And I did not forget. It does not matter to me that the writing did not occur chronologically, but it does matter that the comics are arranged in order. I wonder, does it really matter if one is dead before one’s death? Would it even change anything if death occurred before birth or if one lived for many years after one had already died? I think death does not matter, nor does it matter at what point it occurs. I do know one thing though, if nothing else, that we are all dead and we just don’t know it yet. – Zachary

 

Home Alone – A home has been found, but at the cost of being forever alone. And you thought a mortgage was expensive? Turtle’s home is a reflection of the turtle’s poverty. After all the turtle lives in a mobile home. And so do many humans. And too many are homeless, they have neither mobile homes nor shells. At least they have hearts. The rest of us with roofs and bathrooms and spare bedrooms are heartless. And I see homeless in the city and my heart goes out to them, but that is all. No money, no help, no words for them in their loneliness. They have my sympathy and my apathy. Stoke, who has no shell and no home and no mortgage and no heart and no sympathy and no one to stave away the solitude and nothing but apathy, who is better than me, at least isn’t blind to the world. Stoke can elucidate the foibles and futility of existence for us and for the turtle.  As for the turtle, the turtle who lives alone, well at least the turtle can beat the hare in a race home. – Zachary

 

Home – ‘Home is where the heart is.’ Stoke doesn’t have a heart either. – Zachary

 

Home To Death –  Stoke, forbearer of a death wish, hater of life, does not romanticize death. There is no illusion, no delusion as to what death is. There is no lust for death. death is not capitalized. Stoke desires what death is for the sentient, the end of consciousness. Nothing more. Inevitable death is embraced by Stoke, if not eagerly or expectantly or patiently, then at least stoically. Stoke knows in death there is not anything. The turtle seeks a home more than anything. And if it can’t be found in life, then the turtle will seek it in death. It is the one hope that the turtle has. Though Stoke will not even concede to the turtle a home not of this world. For death is not a home or a house or a shelter or heaven or hell or a resting place or a reprieve or darkness or coldness or numbness.  The only comfort is that the dead don’t know they aren’t going home. – Zachary

 

Cold or Hot – As I write in a comfortable abode, there are those outside freezing, some to death. The homeless in particular are vulnerable and must endure dark, cold, lonely, hopeless nights that are unimaginable to me. And when they survive, the morning does not become the end of their misery. In winter, as it is now, it is cold during the day as well. And then there is always, inevitably another night that follows. The cold is torturous, making every minute miserable, and dominating the mind with thoughts only of warmth. For most of us, if we are cold, we can escape it indoors, wrap ourselves in clothes, and warm up to a comfortable, survivable temperature. This simple comfort is luxury for the homeless. Of course, we could provide the homeless with warmth and shelter. Or we can mimic Stoke’s apathy and indifference, knowing that while there are those in the world who are cold, we are not. – Zachary

 

Shelter From The Storm – The freewheelin’ Bob Dylan provides the title to another comic, although it comes from a song on his album ‘Blood on the Tracks’ and not from the titular ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’. The punchline comes a few comics later in Home, although this one was written afterward. Perhaps it is easier to write the punchline first and then the joke. Though maybe it is less a joke and more irony. Still there is enough irony in this comic alone to entertain. See the turtle has shelter from the storm, while Stoke has nothing to provide cover. Tah-duh. Humor. Well maybe not. It isn’t a very good comic. I suppose they can’t all be good. I suppose it wouldn’t matter even if they were. And where do the homeless go when it is raining? I guess I always imagine they find shelter somewhere, that they stay warm and dry. So naïve of me. The homeless have nowhere to go. And society does nothing to help. And what is with all my recent notes providing commentary on the socioeconomic and political realities of homelessness? It is pointless. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs should be inversed, it is meaning and fulfillment in life that needs to be satiated first and only then can one worry about trivial things like food, water, and shelter. And now through my writing I’ve become the freewheelin’ one and though I have shelter from the storm, I remain homeless in this existence. – Zachary

 

Don’t Talk to the Homeless – Louie CK, comedic moralist and performing masturbator, has a bit in his eponymous television show where he describes his friend’s country cousin coming to New York City and encountering a homeless person. She goes to help the man, but Louie and his friend stop her from helping him. She asks ‘Is he okay?’ and the response they had was ‘No, no. He needs you desperately. That’s not the point, we just don’t do that here.’ So it goes. When walking city streets, one must always avoid eye contact or else you invite someone to talk to you, or worse ask you for help. It would be uncharacteristic for Stoke to actively do anything, even something, or especially something, as trite as looking away. Instead Stoke is just looking in a direction and it is us, the uncomfortable audience, that is looking away. – Zachary

 

Nameless – There is a song by Florence and the Machine called ‘Remain Nameless’, which feels particularly relevant to this comic. The first few stanzas are recreated below: 

“I was born in a big gray cloud 

Screaming out a love song 

All the broken chords and unnamed cries 

What a place to come from 

I wish to remain nameless 

And live without shame 

‘Cause what’s in a name, Oh 

I still remain the same 

You can call it what you want 

You can call me anything you want 

You can call us what you want 

You can call me anything you want” 

The song itself, though somewhat ambiguous, appears to be about an affair or the desire to remain nameless during trysts. So maybe not so relevant. The comic itself is about a homeless turtle, who also happens to be nameless. As another song wisely observes, ‘some will win, some will lose, some were born to sing the blues’. And Stoke is really reticent about speaking unless provoked, Stoke doesn’t even ask back, as polite etiquette requires, the turtle for its name. Maybe Stoke prefers to say as little as possible to the homeless (am I projecting again?). And as Florence Welch wisely asks, ‘what’s in a name’? What do our names do to our psyche? Why do others perceive us differently based on our names? Are we our names? Do our names define us? Who are we without a name? And what does it mean to not have a name? Why can’t we name ourselves? Why can’t our names be as fluid as our homes, having them for a few years before changing them? And what do our homes say about ourselves? ‘What’s my age again?’ Tune in each week for new episodes of Nihileafs, where these and more philosophical questions, remain unanswered. – Zachary

 

Homeless – Stoke must think that getting approached by someone homeless is the worst. Or maybe I’m projecting thoughts onto Stoke. Instead, Stoke must think that getting approached by anyone is the worst. Yes that sounds right. Or maybe I’m projecting onto Stoke again. And left unasked is if Stoke has a home. I doubt it, but then again I never asked Stoke. In originally conjuring up this comic I had Stoke reply ‘Same’ or ‘Me too’, but neither felt like the right response. In the end I decided Stoke wasn’t one to say anything unprovoked. But maybe that is just me making assumptions about Stoke. And you know what they say about those who assume, ‘it makes an ass out of you and me.’ So now I’ve gone and made an ass out of myself and an ass out of Stoke. Here I am making assumptions and projecting thoughts onto Stoke. It is not fair to Stoke. Though I doubt Stoke would care. About me and about homelessness, whether Stoke’s or others. I wish society would solve homelessness, so I wouldn’t feel so guilty about doing nothing about it (I’ve gone and made an ass out of myself again). I don’t think Stoke cares about that either. Perhaps Stoke’s apathy is a metaphor, or am I making assumptions again. Oh and I hope the punchline is obvious. After all, how can a turtle be homeless? – Zachary

 

Suicidal Reincarnate – One only has to kill oneself for this tortured existence to be over. Then again maybe not. Perhaps we are reincarnated back to life, existence itself being inescapable. And what of this anthropoid, on its umpteenth suicide attempt. Does it tragically keep its memories of past lives with each new reincarnation or is it oblivious to its past selves, not knowing it is at its own graveyard, and with each new life always coming to the same, unavoidable conclusion. For this anthropoid, does its soul yearn for suicide, for oblivion? Or is it life itself, the suffering and pain and pointlessness, that leads the anthropoid, each time, to self-death. Perhaps realizing with every life that the logical conclusion is always death. Or maybe it is biological, the anthropoid always forced into suicide by genetics. Are the suicides free will or destiny? Are they self-determined or pre-determined? This comic is the embodiment of Hinduism, of Catholicism and its teaching of eternal damnation for those who commit suicide, of Sisyphus, of the saying ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’, of the movie Groundhog Day, all twisted and demented together. This comic is simply a reminder, perhaps a warning, that while nothingness may be desired, it may not be what one gets. One should be careful, after death may be more life. – Zachary

 

We Were Here Once – This comic is simply the Nihileafs viewing the giant words ‘We Were Here Once’ engraved on a rocky protrusion for any passersby to see. Who wrote these words is not known. Neither is the reason they wrote the words. Is it a memorial? A monument? A tombstone? Is the message sorrowful or bragging or defiant? Was it written by a tribe or a village or a civilization? And how long has the message been there? Perhaps more importantly how long will the message remain before it is forever erased by erosion and entropy? And what does it mean to the Nihileafs as they reflect on the sign and contemplate that they were here once too? – Zachary

 

Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right – The title is the name of a Bob Dylan song, I picked it because I like it. The title that is, but also the song. Descartes said ‘I think therefore, I am’. Stoke says ‘When I die, I won’t think’. A good reminder for our inevitable nonexistence. Life won’t be missed because it can’t. Perhaps that means something. Maybe it doesn’t. Perhaps it means life is meaningless. Or maybe life has meaning and it is death that is meaningless. – Zachary

 

More Time Passes – More Time Passes coming after the comic Time Passes has similarities to the time contrast between Rock and Time Flies. In both sets of comics, time passes at seemingly radically different rates. In Rock each panel is a season and in Time Flies each panel is less than a second; in Time Passes each panel is approximately fifteen minutes and in More Time Passes each panel is likely centuries or even millennia. Sometimes times passes slowly and sometimes time passes quickly. This is the Theory of Relativity in which time always passes relatively, sometimes relatively slow and sometimes relatively quick and sometimes we sing the blues. – Zachary

 

Time Passes – Sometimes time passes quickly. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes a lot happens in that time. Sometimes barely anything happens. Sometimes we see the changes of time passing. Sometimes they are hardly noticeable. Sometimes time passing ruins a good time. Sometimes time passing carries away a bad time. Sometimes we miss time. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we are there for the passing of time. Most times time passes without our existence. Yet always the passing of time happens without meaning. – Zachary

 

At Life’s End – Mungi’s question can easily be interpreted as to what happens to one’s own existence as their life ends, but Mother Nature, perhaps not incorrectly knowing Mungi’s meaning, responds with what occurs at the end of all life. The answer is existence continues carrying on without life, unaware that it is gone or that it even breathed in the first place. What remains are the laws of nature ceaselessly and unalterably continuing until the entropic end. The end itself being determined by and subject to those same laws of nature, obeying to the very last and into eternity the dictates of inertia. Or perhaps the universe is cyclical and after it collapses in on itself then subsequently exploding in another Big Bang, Mother Nature will, in fact, return. Either way it is nice to know that with the death of all life the old maxim will still be followed and Mother Nature will turn off the lights before leaving. – Zachary

 

Attempted Suicide – What a comic to write after months of not writing any! Brump’s attempt to end tortuous existence, to take control of life by self-extinction. In a moment of great strength, or is it weakness, seppuku is pursued. It is an unsuccessful attempt. The Nihileaf has no way to commit hari-kari! Is it a tragedy that Brump can’t commit suicide or rather that Brump must continue to live in a world, an existence, that is unwanted? Brump’s nature prevents carrying out the act, or even the attempt. Yet one can also have a limitation of mind, a mental block prohibiting suicide. Or perhaps even the thought of it. Our nature, molded by environment, defines one’s predisposition to suicide. That what gives existence also defines that existence. So the Nihileaf floats on. – Zachary

 

Crashing Waves – This happens much more to the Nihileafs than is shown. Both against this cliff and throughout their lives against all sorts of objects. – Zachary

 

Cliff –  

There’s a cliff. 

Nihileafs float not far. 

Not doing anything.  

They never are.  

No meaning to this.  

Or anything. 

If there is a metaphor, 

It must be your own.  

There’s a cliff. 

It exists. 

Until it doesn’t. 

Not even time will forever persist. 

Immortality, immorality, 

Fate and finality, 

These are our concerns 

Until to nothingness we return. 

Unavoidable. 

There’s a cliff. 

 

Another Ineffable Curse – It is true that consciousness is another ineffable curse, but for me a greater one is an inability to write. So too is the desire to write. Also is the longing to create something great and to fall far short of it. All ineffable, insufferable and fucking unbearable. Yet those desires all arise from consciousness, so perhaps that is still the greatest curse of them all. – Zachary

 

Nothing Happens – This comic shouldn’t exist, not because of some arduous difficulty in life nearly killing me or my co-creator nor because we endured some particularly challenging circumstance that was overcome. No, rather this comic should not exist for the simple fact that in it nothing happens. Common advice given to novelists, as I suspect remains the same for all storytelling mediums, is that if something doesn’t advance the plot or provide important exposition (neither of which occurs in Nothing Happens), then eliminate it . One can easily think of a great comic series, say Calvin and Hobbes, which is my personal favorite, where no such unnecessary piffle ever occurred. In fact I doubt any comic series, iconic or otherwise, would have anything as irrelevant and extraneous as an inane panel, let alone an entire comic strip. Nothing Happens should obviously be removed from the Nihileafs canon. Naturally this  hasn’t happened, in fact this is not even the first time the Nihileafs are to be found floating with no words or action or compelling background. I imagine if the entirety of Nihileafs was just a series of comics with nothing going on – no thought-provoking dialogue, no serendipitous encounters with a varied caste, no drifting amongst numerous biomes, no commentary or metaphors on existence – it would be just as meaningful, worthwhile, and consequential as is the current rendition of Nihileafs. – Zachary

 

Thoughts of Angels – When, where, and how did the Nihileafs learn to read?!?! It matters not I suppose. Brump’s musings on reading and the thoughts of angels is not an original, if you will pardon the repetition, thought. By that I mean it has been forced upon Brump by me and it is not an original idea of mine. Rather it comes from Kurt Vonnegut and what I can only assume is his angelic mind. This homage (if it can be passed off as that) to Vonnegut bastardizes a passage from his collected speeches “If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?”, where Vonnegut contemplates that people, 

“by reading well, can think the thoughts of the wisest and most interesting human minds throughout all history…even if they themselves have only mediocre intellects, they do it with the thoughts of angels.” 

One can easily see the shamelessness of my stealing from a great literary mind by pilfering not only the thoughts, but also specific words – ‘wisest’, ‘mediocre’, ‘intellect’, and ‘thoughts of angels’ – that make the passage profound. I did take some artistic liberty in the passage, tailoring it to Brump, particularly by removing mention of humans, who are irrelevant to the Nihileafs, and broadening it to all thoughts in existence. If this brazen copying is tasteless, know that I only do it because I think it is one of the ‘wisest and most profound thoughts’ from one of the ‘wisest and most interesting human minds’ (and also because it wouldn’t work as a comic between Stoke and Raven). There is also the added ironic reality that there are no books for the Nihileafs to read. So it goes. – Zachary

 

Distractions – ‘Idle hands are the devils plaything’. So goes the common saying, if that is true then idle minds must be victims to feelings of ‘malaise, apathy, listlessness, and despondency’ and ‘depression and inertia’. In my experience that is a fundamental nature of consciousness, but likely it is just my mind’s predisposition (as well as those like me). There are likely many who by default are cheery, optimistic, and who only encounter the dark recesses of the mind when outside circumstances force it upon them, but I can’t imagine what that must be like. Rather I understand the need for distractions and there are many available – alcohol, tobacco, sleep, sex, internet, television, food, fitness, etc. Unfortunately for Brump and company there are no distractions to be found around for them. – Zachary

 

El Cóndor Pasa – El Condor Pasa, to attempt to give credit where it is due, is originally a Peruvian folk song, that was later covered by Simon and Garfunkel. The song itself speaks to the very nature of being – a sparrow over a snail, a forest over a street – along with all the bias that goes into one’s preference. Raven, in regurgitating the lyrics, would prefer to be a sparrow over a snail, which is a fitting choice given Raven is already a bird (though if the song had been different Raven would have squawked whatever that altered preference was instead). Objectively a sparrow may not be a better choice than a snail, although not being an objective observer I could not say if this was true or not. For better and, certainly for the innumerable who have suffered or endured discrimination, for worse, it is impossible to predetermine who or what one is at birth. If given the opportunity Stoke would rather not be, thank you very much. This is similar to Stoke’s response in the comic To Be, where Stoke answers the Shakespearean question with ‘Not to be’. Stoke may sound a bit repetitive with Raven, but one should not forget the desire to not exist, or to commit suicide, is never far from the mind for many of us.  – Zachary

 

Lifetime – Oh how the contemplations on predeterminism and predestiny feel so unanswerable and immutable. Many have wished to change for the better and failed to do so. And for those who do change is it just their fate, that some combination of nurture and nature allows them to change (and what of those who change for the worse, whether by choice or not)? Brump is never far from self-hate, yet seems to always remain the same. Though there is an optimism in the ability to change, Brump has yet to evince change. In the time it takes for a caterpillar to metamorphize into an elegant butterfly Brump has done nothing, except continue to float on and let out a forlorn sigh. – Zachary

 

Therefore is Raven doth quoting ‘Cogito, ergo sum’, the phrase that anchors this stormy, chaotic world into reality. Words with the same power as ‘Let there be light’, the creation of self from a void. One does not need to prove one’s existence, perhaps not even one’s sanity, any more than realizing ‘I think, therefore I am’. The Nihileaf’s philosophy, or more specifically Stoke’s embodiment of it, is that to think is to logically and conclusively know that existence is hateful and the very state of being is despising. Ironically this realization can only ever be reached if one exists. For the Nihileaf this hatred can never be transformed, it can only cease in death. Not that existence is suddenly appealing or missed, just that there is no longer an ‘I think’ there to hate. – Zachary

 

Mungi sees a wondrous sight, Mother Nature descending to save a beached whale who then exuberantly backflips in a glorious act of celebration, in the comic Important. Although unintentional it could be likened to a resurrection, perhaps like Lazarus, or at the very least a miraculous healing. Mungi may not find any meaning in life, but certainly finds enjoyment and wonder. For Mungi the saving of the whale is profound and spiritual. Perhaps there is meaning to life, perhaps all is not cynical or hopeless. Looking up to Mother Nature in almost a deifying way Mungi seeks meaning and asks ‘why is life so important’? Mother Nature, the personification of life, must have shocked Mungi with her response, ‘it’s not’. What else is there to say! It is like a hero failing, an idol blaspheming, or a god turning out to be human. It is like all hope has been crushed by Sisyphus’ tumbling boulder, smashed into oblivion. About life though, left unsaid, is while it is not important, it is all we got. – Zachary

 

If you are happy and you know it Clap Your Hands (clap clap).  

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap clap) 

If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it 

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. (clap clap) 

Do you get it? It’s because Stoke clant clap hands. Oh and is not happy. Zachary

 

Dead or Alive is another comic that has come to me in sudden inspiration, a fortuitous event as I was struggling to write even simple words and it is when I struggle to write even simple words that I struggle most with meaninglessness. The comic itself, hopefully obvious enough, is a satire of old Western wanted posters for frontier criminals with the twist being the person of interest is, dead or alive, unwanted. Said unwanted person is fittingly enough Brump. I’m reminded of a favorite line of mine from a song called ‘Don’t Care’ by Apocalyptica, which perhaps inspired, albeit at a deep, imperceptible subconscious level, this very comic. The line itself is from the refrain and goes ‘if you were dead or still alive, I don’t care’. It strikes me as something I can only oxymoronically characterize as malicious apathy. An apt description of the universe, so much so that it is a humbling reminder of how little one matters in the universe. Companionship is seemingly the cure for unwantedness, but this self-deceiving, semblance of optimism can only be cherished as long as one doesn’t dwell on the thought that those who love and value you the most are the same as all people, which is to say biologically wired to cope with the grief of losing someone by moving on without. So as depressing as being unwanted in the Cosmos is, at least someone had enough interest in Brump to make a poster. – Zachary

 

Panspermia is the final comic in the Mother Nature arc (the first storyline arc that I have finished, although not the first one I’ve envisioned). This comic is one of the one’s that I am most proud of, in my mind it is very original and tells a powerful allegorical story of the future. One has so little control over the genetic children one begets and after one’s death there is no knowledge of their future fate. For Mungi this is an entire planet or perhaps even beyond that, if the genetic material from that planet is spread through Panspermia (a further fulfillment of the eponymous comic) or as an intergalactic empire. Even more frightening is the thought that one’s descendants can be cruel or evil, in a repudiation of Christianity ‘the sins of sons are unknown to deceased fathers’ (a pithy and patriarchal phrase). – Zachary

 

Another entry in the Mother Nature arc (Busy Bee). This one I struggled with and it was a rare instance where I wasn’t able to finish the comic in one sitting, most of them once I sit down to write I am able finish at that time. The dialogue didn’t come out smoothly for me and I had to work on it, even now I’m not entirely happy with it. Though one must move on, as with many things in life, oftentimes even against one’s will. I sat at my computer two separate times, a week apart, to write this and am comforted that even with as little progress made, I did travel approximately eleven million miles with Gaia in respect to the sun. Quite the accomplishment I must say! – Zachary

 

A new character has been introduced in the eponymously named Mother NatureI have a couple comic ideas for Mother Nature and will be using her a couple times in the near future. Going forward my idea is to have her as a recurring character, who will primarily interact with Mungi. Mother Nature will be a good character to reveal Mungi’s opinions and philosophy, at times being a foil for Mungi. In this particular comic, the theme is to turn the indifference of nature back on Mother Nature herself. Usually nature is indifferent to life, but Mungi turns it around by being indifferent to Mother Nature. I think this is the root of the comic, although I didn’t realize it until writing these notes. In originally coming up with the idea for the comic it was more to introduce Mother Nature as a character than anything else, but in sitting down to write it I think it ends on a pleasantly ironic and onerous note. – Zachary

 

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” (Christopher McDougall, Born to Run). So goes a quote included in a book about the Tarahumara, ultra-runners in the mountainous Mexican peninsula. The comic Slow Cheetah, named after a song by the Red Hot Chili Peppers that is as far as I can tell unrelated to running (give me a break! good titles are hard to think of but easy to pilfer), is about an anthropoid running. The anthropoid is training for a race, which is evidenced by a very heavy-handed metaphor about the Olympics that I’m not proud of, when suddenly he is chased down and eaten by a cheetah. In my mind there are too many references for this comic’s own good: the reference to Greeks and Mount Olympus, the not-so-well-known reference to an unrelated song, the common phrase ‘off to the races’, and the well-known-not-really-subtle reference to the tortoise and the hare parable. Yet for all the fluffy references at heart of this comic is the notion that we are nothing more than victims of our genetics. We can be whatever we want to be, so long as what we want to be is what are genetics dictate for us. For some of us that means being an easily plucked, nutritious meal for someone else. – Zachary

 

The latest comic, Originality, is very simplistic and centered around a straightforward premise that all thoughts are unoriginal. They are nothing more than the amalgamation of other thinkers. Even what appears to be original has the telltale signs of influence of others that paved the way. In actuality there has to be some originality to new thoughts and ideas or else everything would remain stagnant. It would mean nothing new was created and the counterfactual is that new art, music, cinema, and literature is constantly being born. Still there may be aspects of a thought or idea or prose that is original, but can anything ever truly be original in a species that has common languages amongst its members and has to teach a shared history? All known thoughts have an axiom of humanity. There is also a more subtle and hidden meaning to the comic, which is everything that Stoke says is dictated by me, so Stoke’s statements are in fact unoriginal and directly attributable to me. In this comic Stoke is nothing more than an unwitting pawn in a self-allegory of my self-debasing, self-deprecating, and self-effacing mood. – Zachary

 

Eternal Repose is a simplistic and at this time a rare interaction between Brump and Stoke. Everyone hopes to die in a peaceful and painless way, typically envisioned by being in one’s sleep. This comic riffs on that wish since the Nihileafs don’t sleep and Brump won’t be able to drift from restful slumber to eternal repose (leave it to Stoke to callously point this out).  Metaphorically this comic represents how we usually don’t have control over our own death, unless we commit suicide or take actions that increase our chance of death. Contemplating on how people would prefer to die brings up a memory of how I wanted to die in high school. My ideal death at the time was as a healthy ninety years old seated at a fancy dinner table during some event surrounded by loved ones and after hearing a hilarious joke I laugh hard enough to stop my heart and kerplunk into my soup – dead. – Zachary

 

Saddest contains one of my favorite quotes of all time. Bonus points because I first read a variation of it in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle,  “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been.” Stoke’s variation is infinitely more pessimistic and depressing. The original is reminiscing on possibilities that didn’t become reality, Stoke responds by bemoaning what did occur. Hopefully Stoke’s witty response does it justice, I’m constantly plagued with self-doubt. Like what this comic could’ve been, what it might’ve been, what it shouldn’t have been! – Zachary

 

FloccinaucinihilipilificationLook it up. – Zachary

 

The Nihileafs are having a threesome. Ménage à trois. Mazel Tov! What’s this though? They can’t go through with it. For shame. Let’s not dwell on what could have been… even if the dark recesses of one’s mind might be thinking Internet Rule 34. – Zachary

 

Alone Timefor me this seems consume most of my free time. This can lead feelings of unrest, anxiety, and depression. As a social creature this is likely a biological response. Yet this is sometimes needed more than all the companionship in the world. Mungi, somewhat of a lone wolf, cherishes this time and perhaps as a non-hominid it is even the preference. Brump, of course, is ever present to interrupt.  – Zachary

 

…Two’s A Crowd is the natural and philosophical sequel to Three’s Company… There is a saying that goes ‘two’s company, three’s a crowd’, this upends that ancestral aphorism. For whatever reason I don’t see Mungi and Brump getting along initially (is this contrived drama? could likely very well be). Naturally with them not getting along they had to be thrown together without hope of separation. Such is the start of the ‘Two Arc’. As an implicit corollary Stoke is initially the only Nihileaf that both Brump and Mungi can relate to. Naturally Stoke had to go. – Zachary

 

It is always surprising how rapidly fates change and how simple things, such as an initially very narrow strip of sand, have drastic impact on one’s lives. Three’s Company… is this story of simple irony and unforeseen separation. In this case the three Nihileafs, all in good company with each other, are floating aimlessly on. A small sandbar separates them momentarily. Momentarily rapidly turns into an entire continent… so it goes. – Zachary

 

Yet again another comic where I am dissatisfied with the writing. I really must devote more time to editing so that I end up with something greater than mediocrity. I can already foresee myself trying to edit and rewrite passages at the last minute just as we go to publish comics online. Who says foresight can’t also be 20/20? In this particular comic I’m dissatisfied with Mungi’s passage describing stars. I was going for something simplistic, yet also profound and awe-inspiring. One of the salient things limiting this passage is my lack of understanding about stars, not to say my inabilities as a writer. But then again Epistemology II is literally the name of the comic, so both my limited knowledge of stars and general ignorance of them fit the theme. – Zachary

 

To Be is the eponymously named comic and Stoke’s unequivocal response is ‘not to be’. Against Stokes’s preference though existence will continue. I thought of Stoke’s response thinking it was a clever response to the famous question without realizing the question was in fact about contemplating suicide. For some reason I didn’t know this, although I can’t quite tell you know what I thought the question was in regards to, the only thing that does come to mind when I think of the quote is a Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs is dressed as Hamlet with a skull in hand and asks ‘to be or not to be’. My childhood mind must have been too innocent to grasp the gravity of the question (I’ve tried to find a clip of the video but can’t seem to locate it). In hindsight it really couldn’t be about anything else and what I thought was a clever response in the affirmation of non-existence was actually one of only two answers that could be given. Even if it is not a witty interpretation of the quote it is still very much something a Nihileaf would say, more powerful for the direct and unhesitating manner in which the response is said. – Zachary

 

‘Today I will be happy!’ So goes Brump’s bold, internal proclamation in Happy. When one is unhappy, or lazy or alone or unsuccessful or… well then one must force themselves to exhibit the behavior they are looking for. Brump does this, before encountering the all to inescapable realization that we slaves to ourselves. Our self is unshakeable if simply for the tautologic reason that we are who we are. If we were to change ourselves, then we would cease to be us and become someone else. Change to combat depression or other mental ailments might perhaps be worth it… but only if suicide is also. – Zachary

 

Unhappy – I’m unhappy with life. I’m unhappy at the thought of death. I’m unhappy with the choices I’ve made. I’m unhappy with the fate I’ve been handed. I’m unhappy in my solitude. I’m unhappy when I’m in the company of others. At night I’m unhappy the evening past and I’m unhappy the morning after. I’m unhappy with all that I’ve written. I’m unhappy with all that I’ve never written. I’m unhappy with the regrets of the past. And I’m unhappy with the prospects of the future. I’m unhappy with being unhappy. I’m unhappy at what I can’t change. I’m unhappy with what I’ve changed. I’m unhappy with the predetermined unfolding of the universe. I’m unhappy with free will. I’m unhappy with this. I’m unhappy with that. I’m unhappy here. I’m unhappy there. I’m unhappy everywhere. I’m unhappy who. Unhappy what. Unhappy where.  Unhappy when. Unhappy why. I’m unhappy when I should be happy. I’m unhappy when I’m unhappy. I’m unhappy when I know it. I’m unhappy when I don’t. But most of all I’m unhappy with this comic. – Zachary

 

The title of The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul originates from a quote by Douglas Adam, one that he also used as an eponymously entitled novel, “In the end, it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn’t cope with, and that terrible listlessness which starts to set in at about 2:55, when you know that you’ve had all the baths you can usefully have that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragraph in the papers you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o’clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.”- Douglas Adams, Life, the Universe and Everything” The quote doesn’t really relate to the theme of the comic, unhappiness, but the phrase feels particularly poignant when it comes self-reflection. It is a deep and unsavory realization that Brump has of being shackled and chained to the unhappiness of the past, one must also not  forget of the present too. It is a truly depressing and humbly thought to think of the time wasted unhappy. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so tortuous if it wasn’t it being for so long and uninterrupted periods. Even though this comic is from Brump’s perspective, it could also have been from Stoke’s perspective. One variation even had it with both Stoke and Brump at the bottom of the panel, but with nothing indicating who was thinking, instead leaving it ambiguous (perhaps this would have been an even more powerful version). In the end though, I don’t think Stoke really cares about happiness, there is too much nihilism and meaninglessness in the universe for something as trivial as personal happiness. Instead Brump is turning out to be the one most concerned with happiness, think back to the comic Dear Creator, both of achieving it and the lack of it. Honestly at this point Brump doesn’t even know what would make him happy… I do though, it is nothing more than a trivial amount of ink and a few strokes of my pen! – Zachary

 

I still got it though, like a pot of gold (see a line from J Cole’s song Higher for reference to my mind’s imprinted obsessions). I sat down to write a Nihileaf’s comic with nothing coming to mind, a common occurrence, when with cigar long extinguished and mental capacity already exhausted from an 11-hr workday this idea popped into my head. I was thinking that I would never have another good idea and almost giving up on the Nihileafs entirely! (perhaps a slight exaggeration). Then this idea, like lightening from a storm came to mind. Suddenly I thought it almost comical how I had never before written about the Butterfly Effect. In my mind it became clear the interaction between Mungi and an innocent, beautiful butterfly. Likely my subconscious derived inspiration from the inexplicable destruction from Hurricane Harvey and the anticipated power of Hurricane Irma. For Mungi it is a happy circumstance, to have a butterfly, beauty of nature, land on an outstretched arm, if only momentarily, and providing inexplicable joy. Unbeknownst to Mungi though, the butterfly causes a horrific storm to form and rain (literally) deathly terror upon an idyllic village. Such is the irony of uncaring, ruthless nature. Mungi is ignorant of the effects in a world of causation, think back to the comic Plague. What would the reaction be if Mungi knew the destruction wrought upon by the simple flapping of the wings of a butterfly when taking off from a simple perch on Mungi’s branches? Certainly not one of blissful, if mundane, pleasure that can be seen with Mungi’s facial reaction. What would our reaction be if we found out our most innocuous actions caused untold suffering? – Zachary

 

Newest comic is Divine InspirationThis comic came to me in an… ah-hem… inspired way… leaving divinity aside. The comic came to me a couple of days ago, but what I really struggled with was including something clever to say as the “divinely” inspired comment. I had been thinking of stealing from something famous, top of the list would have been some pithy statement or other from Jesus, maybe some bullshit like ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. This morning when I sat down to write the comic I was drawing up a blank on what to write as the “divine” comment when I thought of just finishing the comic and having a placeholder to return in the future, before deciding the placeholder should be the “divine” intrusion. I hope it has enough irony and humor to be funny, I’m still not set on it but am going to leave it for now. When making the comic it might make sense to bold or italicize the “divine” comment to indicate its “heavenly” origin, although I’ll leave that up to the artists discretion. Before ending I’d like to explain why I used quotes around words like heavenly and divine in the above. It is because the comic is quite clearly not divinely inspired. Instead the irony lies in the fact that the divine statement is of course an intrusion, but by me who is neither divine nor heavenly. Further irony lies in the fact that all the Nihileafs statements are similarly inspired. – Zachary

 

Added a new comic to the quote series, Desperation. This quote is one I’ve been wanting to include for a while (at least a few months now), but could never think of the appropriate response by Stoke. Initially I was thinking Stoke’s response would be some sort of plant or leaf based pun, that is until a couple of days ago when Stoke’s response suddenly hit me – ‘Don’t we all?’. I think it is infinitely better than any other responses I’ve come up with for this comic and think it fits the pessimistic, nihilistic theme much more. One thing I’m thinking of changing up with the quote series is having all of them only have the raven and Stoke, as opposed to all three Nihileafs present. I think just having Stoke could make for some great takes on famous and profound quotes with Stoke’s signature philosophy. The other change I’m considering is when the raven flies off, he says ‘Nevermore’ in the spirit of said raven’s eponymous poem. – Zachary

 

Indifference, my latest written draft, is probably my most heartless and darkest comic in a while. It helps that it is contrasted with a peaceful day evidenced by a calm sea and clear sky. The comic is one with an anthropoid falling into the sea and drowning right in front of the Nihileafs, who watch on seemingly indifferent, hence the title (or perhaps they understand they are useless?). There were a couple variations of this comic that I thought of, although I think this is the version I would like to go with. One variation included a female anthropoid at the top of the cliff, where in the beginning we see some loving affection between the two. The male still falls into the ocean with the change being the female watches on in terror as the male drowns before her eyes. She is desperate and helpless at the top of the cliff… fucked up I know… but so it goes. Another variation had the genders between watcher and drowner switched. In the end I decided that the lone death with no one around except for the Nihileafs, who are unacknowledged by the drowning anthropoid for the simple reason that he is naturally too busy drowning, was a powerful comic in itself. In this comic I didn’t include any dialogue, but one variation I thought of included either Stoke or Brump, in the panel after the anthropoid had drowned, saying ‘I’m as indifferent as god’. I didn’t include it in this comic, but think I’ll use the pithy quip some other time down the road. Even without the female anthropoid or the quote hopefully it is still a powerful comic. I have a couple ideas of what the message of the comic is, but as in life any meaning will have to be derived from by the reader… – Zachary

 

Stream of Consciousness is based on the psychology term of the same name, in which there is a continuous flow of conscious thought. Often this is a rambling or wide range of disparate thoughts that stream together through one’s mind. Anyone who has spent time with their own thoughts has experienced this. My author’s notes for each comic is a form of a stream of consciousness. This itself is a stream of consciousness on the subject of steam of consciousness. Thoughts are the essence of a sentient individual, yet there are many aspects to thought and only a few of these are touched on in the comic. The comic starts in mid-thought and ends in mid-thought implying a continuous stream that occurs both before and after the comic (the end of the comic is based on something Kurt Vonnegut had throughout his novel Slaughterhouse-Five, ‘So it goes’). This comic is just a snapshot of Brump’s internal thoughts. With the Nihileafs floating non-stop they must always be thinking, something that is easy to overlook. One point I tried to get across, but probably didn’t do too well on was the fact that most thoughts we have are lost to ourselves as they quickly enter and depart (not to mention when we perish all thoughts go with us, even the ones we write down will one day disappear into nothingness along with the entropy of the universe). Another part of the comic comes from something Carl Sagan said and I always found profound (emphasis mine): ‘We live in the cosmic boondocks. We emerged from microbes and muck. Apes are our cousins. Our thoughts and feelings are not fully under our own control. There may be much smarter and very different beings elsewhere.’ – Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. It is humbling to think that we are our thoughts and they are often not under our control. A quirk I have is whenever a particular thoughts comes into my mind that I didn’t want to think or I would like to expel from my mind I immediately punch myself in my thigh a few times, a form of penitent self-flagellation. For the comic Brump is experiencing the phenomenon stream of consciousness while contemplating thoughts. The reason I went with Brump was because I imagined only Brump would think of thoughts in this way, particularly around disliking one’s own thoughts (again something everyone has encountered in their lives). In my mind Stoke is too nihilistic towards everything to give much consideration to thoughts and Mungi is too blissful to contemplate the limited and ephemeral nature of thoughts. Perhaps this comic will induce a stream of consciousness within a reader as they contemplate the passage. – Zachary

 

I likely overdid it with Time Flies… at least in terms of the number of panels. It clocks, an unintended pun, in at over 400 panels and could easily be longer! Chronologically this comic will come immediately after Rock, which will provide a stark contrast to the passage of time from that comic. In Rock nearly two years pass in a few, short panels, which already contrasts with the first dozen or so comics that together span one day and night (for comparison there are more comics in the first day than there are panels in the seven seasons that pass in Rock). Immediately following Rock comes this comic lasting no more than a few fleeting seconds, but will likely contain more panels than all the panels in the comics preceding it combined. The intention is to represent time at a near standstill, it barely passes even though long periods feel like they should go by. Further irony is found in the title as time doesn’t fly at all in this comic. For good measure there is also a fly. Visual gags are provided by an erratic and senseless flight pattern that eventually ends where it began (one will never understand the zig zagging of flies). Dry humor, or at least something unique, can be found in the tracing of the fly’s flight by the dotted line. It is common in comics to use dotted lines to represent movement, especially flight, although I can’t think of an instance where each panel traces only the single addition of a dot. Its mundane to show each frame of movement even though in reality that is how time moves. Most comics try to have quick changes from panel to panel to represent action, this comic has many panels and hardly anything happening (certainly nothing worthwhile). So contrary to the title time may not seem to fly in this comic, but at least I didn’t write Time Crawls… – Zachary 

 

In Rock more than a year in the lives of the Nihileafs passes for the sake of irony. So it goes. The comic is an absurd take on how unproductive and uneventful the lives of the Nihileafs are, more than a year passes and nothing happens during that entire time. Their companion finally decides it has had enough sitting around and must move on, while the Nihileafs have no such feeling and continue in their position for who knows how long (in my mind the rock knows the Nihileafs are sentient and that is why the rock makes the comment prior to departing). The stoic rock itself is revealed to be anthropomorphic in the last panel that it’s in, which previously looked like just a stereotypical small boulder. Not sure how the rock should look as it goes to leave, but in all likelihood the easiest thing to do would be to have it look like a humanoid rock (maybe something inspired by the rock monster in the movie Galaxy Quest). – Zachary

 

Insufferable is a comic about the reactions of the three Nihileafs to a new day and is meant to be the comic that ends the beginning of our opening set. The writing, like another day, is insufferable. – Zachary

 

Epistemology – The original idea for this comic came from my fascination with the terms epistemology, etymology, entomology, eschatology (ordered differently in the comic), particularly the sonorous and alliterative nature when consecutively listing off the widely different fields of study. This proliferated into fifty-eight different words for two reasons, to attempt a poetic arrangement of the various subjects and to demonstrate, partially through absurdity, the vast amount that is not known. For us, and not the Nihileafs, is the added irony that there is massive amounts of knowledge known collectively to humans in these areas, yet the average laymen knows almost nothing of them (myself included), though it is unlikely that even with a lifetime of effort a person could become an expert in more than one or two of these subjects. One additional epistemological limitation that Mungi has is knowledge is constrained by Mungi’s dual creators. What my co-creator and I don’t know, Mungi will never know. How’s that for epistemology? In fact, to create this list I had to use a wonderful trifecta of Google, Wikipedia, and a special word list focused on the suffix -ology found at the back of Roget’s A-Z Thesaurus. Many of the words were previously unknown to me, my knowledge of each subject is superficial at best, and I have even already forgotten what some of them mean. In creating the comic there were multiple challenges with trying to put everything in the ‘right’ order. The flow from word to word was primarily driven by relevance of subject, an alliterative match, letters throughout words that matched beyond -ology, or syllables that rhymed in addition -ology. In some cases none of these criteria were met and admittedly there are some parts that don’t quite flow. Another flaw is the disproportionate number of words overrepresenting some subjects, particularly the middle of the monologue relating the various classifications of organisms. Additionally some words represent subjects that are subsets of others, myrmecology is a branch of entomology and both are a branch of biology (though on the whole that is likely unavoidable in a list of this given length and linguistic goals). It is likely this comic can be improved on by rearranging the words, though there are more 2^78 permutations (factorial 58!), and I would like to think most would be significantly worse. To add complexity one can also add additional -ology words that were excluded (one’s that I had strongly considered, amongst a couple others, but didn’t were ‘morphology’, ‘psychology’, ‘physiology’, and ‘genecology’). An alternative to improvement would be to pay tribute by memorizing and verbally reciting the comic. For those who do undertake this arduous and useless task, I apologize for any weaknesses in crafting that limit verbal recitation (I personally get caught up from Hyetology-Potamology-Limnology and Conchology-Malacology-Acanthology-Ichthyology). There is almost assuredly a better version and, for epistemological reasons, we’ll likely never read it. – Z (2/7/19) 

 

Probability – As Shakespeare immemorially said, “To be or not to be”. The great question, still unanswered. If it is not to be, then nothing. If we are to be, than it is as Vonnegut observes in Deadeye Dick, “To be is to do – Socrates. To do is to be – Jean-Paul Satre. Do be do be do – Frank Sinatra.”  The mystery of existence is how it all came to be. I have no answer for that, nor does any scientist or prophet or philosopher. Could existence be similar to Schrodinger’s Cat, it both is and isn’t. Maybe once the origins of the Cosmos are discovered everything will vanish into nothing. Perhaps more than nothing, upon learning of the beginning after having had eaten of the tree of knowledge, existence will cease and also be erased, never existing in the first place. Imagine if everything that has had happened suddenly never had had happened. A seemingly metaphysical impossibility. Or it could be as Douglas Adams wrote, “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.” For me though, it is enough to know what Mungi says, “Given infinite nothingness and unending eternity, so long as the probability of spontaneous existence is greater than zero, no matter how infinitesimal the odds, it is enough for us to have arose from nothing.” – Zachary

 

42 provides a simple answer from Stoke to a profound question posed by Brump. The punchline to the comic is definitively dark, depressing, and full of loathing for existence, but I’m torn on whether or not this comic should be used. A question to contemplate, would this be something that Stoke would actually say? Is it a nihilistic thing to have a death wish? Or should one be as indifferent to the end of life as one is to life itself? Does nihilism despise the meaningless of life and welcomes the end or does it not care either way? After all life is nothing more than happenstance and coincidence, ultimately existence is as pointless as nonexistence regardless if it occurs or not. It is like the hypothetical of Schrodinger’s Cat: if you have a box with hydrocyanic acid and you may or may not have a cat, in the end does it matter? One can contemplate these questions endlessly and like all great philosophers end up older and none the wiser. In the end my only saving grace from these questions was my persistent procrastination. It doesn’t take long to give up on trying to deduce an ‘Answer to the Great Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything’. Instead abide by the title of a pornography starring Monty Python’s The Knights Who Say Ni: Fuck it. – Zachary

 

Meaning of Life – Today I was asked could I, per chance and perhaps if I had the time, figure out the meaning of life? A tall task for a short mind. It did not take me long to come up with the answer. No. I could not, in fact figure out the meaning of life. I could, of course, live a life of meaning. I could also mean well in life. Alternatively, I could be mean in life. Or live a mean life. I could also seek, along with the median and mode, to find the mean of life. I could find a means to support my life, whatever that might entail. I mean, after all, life allows for a lot of different means. I could even live out of my means, though it is advisable to live within one’s means. Means, means, means what does it mean. And when I repeat the word means, like means, means, means, the word blends together and loses its meaning. When it loses its meaning I can only speculate as to what it means. So there it is, a lot of means, but hardly any meaning. And as for the means to an end, well here we are. – Zachary

 

Plague introduces a new character, the Narrator. Well not introduces, since the narrator was in the first comic, so much as it affirms the Narrator’s place as a recurring character. I have been thinking of including additional characters, such as Mother Nature, and the Narrator came to mind. I have a couple ideas with the Narrator, so more comics to come. This particular one illustrates the deadliness of microscopic organisms, but more importantly it is a macabre and darkly humorous depiction of how we often spread diseases without our knowledge. In fact often we never know we are the cause of this transmission, which is hopefully is captured in the end by Mungi still unaware that the sneeze caused the death of an entire ecosystem. As an aside inspiration always seems to be contagious for as I wrote Plague, I came up with another idea… – Zachary

 

In that wholly remarkable book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy it is revealed that humans are the third most intelligent species on Earth. More intelligent than us are dolphins, the penultimate intelligence, and mice, the ultimate Earthly intelligence. In Intelligent Life the Nihileafs come across sea-faring anthropoids and are unimpressed; one can assume their reaction to dolphins and mice, with or without sails, would be similar. It’s also entirely possible that the Nihileafs would say the same for any sentient species in the entirety of the universe, regardless of what is to be found (though at that point it would surely be just obstinance on their part). There remains hope yet humans can one day be acknowledged as an intelligent species, perhaps even the first and only in the entirety of existence (dolphins and mice notwithstanding). This can only occur once we stop cutting off clitorises, vilifying immigrants, forcing women into menstruation huts, exploiting the labor of others, and obliterating our environment, amongst other things like genocide and slavery. Though maybe we are not a stupid and ignorant species, but rather a barbaric one? Personally, I like to think of all things, as a whole humans are just uneducated. That is mostly uneducated (though certainly not mostly harmless). Admittedly, human stupidity and idiocy is ripe for ridicule. How stupid are humans? Let me demonstrate. It has taken humanity ten thousand years, give or take a few centuries, maybe even a couple millennia, with innumerable sufferings, cruel ironies, absent gods, and the indifference of nature to come up with nihilism. The Nihileafs realize this near the beginning of their existence. How’s that for intelligence? – Zachary

 

In Created, Brump asks that most fundamental of questions about life – how did we come into existence? To say nothing of why. Brump’s conclusion is that the Nihileafs were created by some entity and reverentially refers to that being as the Creator. Belief in a supernatural deity who created life is a ludicrous notion, what with our understanding of science, nature, evolution and fallacious arguments put forth in defense of nonexistent gods. As ridiculous as the belief in a creator is, neither Stoke nor Mungi care and they respond to Brump with utter indifference. Not just to Brump’s theory of how their lives were created, but to even caring about their origination at all. To a Nihileaf, and to a nihilist, it matters not. Of course, Brump in actuality is correct about the Nihileafs having been created, though wrong on a technicality. There is not one creator, but two. – Zachary

 

In Sentience Brump discovers, in the beginnings of existence no less, self-hate. Hating oneself is a difficult enough realization to try to come to terms with after years of living, to have grown to despise one’s own actions and abhor the decision-maker, yet be seemingly powerless to change things going forward (in the case of regretting and hating one’s own past, there is no cure and one can only cope with the symptoms). It is another thing altogether to have barely started photosynthesizing and to already be filled with self-loathing. An important lesson does become elucidated though, for without consciousness there would be no hate – either for others or oneself. There would be no love either, but when has love been enough to outweigh misery, despair, pain, and everything else that makes life unbearable, let alone self-hatred? – Zachary

 

Longevity – Though it is barely the beginning of Stoke’s existence it is already too long of a life. For the Nihileaf, death is desirous. It will not be soon had. Though what is a long life compared to an eternity of nothing? One could live to be the age of the universe at its end and still not have lived a fraction of an infinity. It is comforting to know that no matter how long life will be it inevitably ends. Or is that only a comfort to those that hate our own consciousness? Stoke will one day die, even if it is not as swift as desired. It is the same for me. The irony though is as Stoke yearns for death it is not to be had as long as there is desire in the creators for this comic’s longevity! – Zachary

 

Serendipity is the introduction of the Nihileafs – Brump, Mungi, and Stoke. It also introduces Clant. Is Clant a Nihileaf? I don’t know and it is unlikely to matter. Clant is as much of a Nihileaf as you or this writer or the comic’s artist. It is important to note that Clant is not tailing or following the Nihileafs, instead Clant has a wholly unique and independent existence not intertwined with Brump, Mungi, or Stoke. Clant is like all those people with the ability to completely transform our lives, whom we never encounter, or encounter and don’t talk to, as they linger barely beyond our peripherals at any moment able to improve our existence and ours theirs, if only happenstance would serendipitously bring us together. Then again our metaphorical Clant could make our lives worse, so there is always that. There is not much more to say about Clant. Look very closely and in the future you might see Clant. Then again you might not. – Zachary

 

Unnamed – If there is meaning to life, you will not find it amongst the Nihileafs. You will find no cures for loneliness, listlessness, sadness, or self-hate, although you will encounter all the symptoms. Happiness is similarly absent, likely unattainable. For our chlorophyllic friends that is, although probably for everyone else as well. Contentment is sporadic, though it will have to do when it can be had. And love, what of it? Life is the greatest tragedy, for without life there would be no suffering or sorrow. And if this is all too dark and depressing for you, then ignore the Nihileafs and let them endure existence unseen. – Zachary