Cartoon – why do we like sunsets?
Cartoon about evolutionary psychology
Why do we find sunsets spiritually uplifting?
A cartoon about the fact that sensory stimuli that are of a greater than average intensity often evoke profound emotions. This applies to such things as sunsets and flowers, and is also a factor in our appreciation of the arts, from music to cinema. A comment on spirituality and pseudo-spirituallity (I’m a believer in pseudospirituality myself).
This cartoon first appeared in BBC Knowledge magazine.
Cartoon reference number: a333
Michelangelo – Hand of God cartoon
Sistine Chapel Creation of Man parody
Parody of Michelangelo’s Hand of God painting in the Sistine Chapel, being used to illustrate the concept that live on earth could have been deliberately brought to earth from outer space by aliens.
The cartoon could be linked to theories such as the ones offered in books such as Erich von Daniken’s “Chariots of the Gods”, although personally I’d rather be disassociated with such theories (if that’s what such sensationalist speculation can be called).
The concept of Was God an Astronaut? has been revived recently with the film Prometheus by Ridley Scott, and will no doubt be aired again when the sequel is released.
The theory that life may have been planted on Earth billions of years ago by an advanced alien civilization is sometimes known as directed panspermia. This theory was (mischievously?) proposed by Francis Crick (of dna fame) together with biologist Leslie Orgel in 1971. Directed panspermia is sometimes evoked to solve a particular problem in the science of life – science’s current inability to explain life’s origin. Of course the theory simply puts off the explanation, very much in the way that religions do – hence my use of Michelangelo’s hand of God creating Adam in the cartoon.
Cartoon reference number: a325
Cartoon showing how the thought of death is always lurking in the back of your thoughts (unless you’re still young that is)
An illustration illustrating the face of death, symbolised by a skull, peeking round the edge of someone’s thoughts, because it’s always there somewhere, making its presence known.
A cartoon about mortality, intimations of mortality, mid-life crisis, life and death, existence, lifespan, philosophy, the grim reaper, awareness of death.
Cartoon reference number: a130
Cartoon showing a lifestyle guru or life coach explaining the secret of happiness.
Cartoon showing someone being told by a ‘lifestyle guru’ that to be truly contented you must transcend the present moment of your being.
The joke is that the person who is being given this advice is obviously in a very good place right now, and transcending his present moment of being is probably the last thing that he’d want to do.
This cartoon is part of a series about the emergence of gurus, personal counsellors, lifestyle coaches, motivational speakers, therapists and suchlike – a recent development of the philosophy of personal fulfilment. In the series the guru, counsellor or therapist is a very ordinary middle aged woman rather than someone who is removed from the humdrum of everyday life. The speaker is meant to represent to some extent a parody of lifestyle advisers and self improvement gurus, especially those who have a pseudo-spiritual twist to their advise (commonly of a pseudo-buddhist inclination).
Cartoon about philosophy, lifestyle, lifestyle coaching, gurus, motivational speakers, therapy, counselling, charlatanism, self delusion, aspiration, buddhism.
Cartoon reference number: a125
Cartoon. The Tibetan Book of the Dead Funny.
Mystical teachings on how to laugh in the face of death.
I’ve added this cartoon of mine now because it looks a little like a David Shrigley drawing, and because the last few cartoons that I’ve added are similar in some ways to David Shrigley artwork too (This interest in David Shrigley is because he has an exhibition of his art – Brain Activity – at the Hayward Gallery in London at the moment (Feb 2012)
The cartoon shows “The Tibetan Book of the Dead Funny”. Subtitled “Mystical teachings on how to laugh in the face of death”.
Cartoon reference number: a113
Cartoon about God and the creation of the universe
Illustration showing a creation myth
Part of the joke in the cartoon is that the god figure is reading a book that explains the origins of the universe.
A cartoon about creation myths, intelligent design, genesis
The cartoon is an updated version of an illustration that I produced in the 1980s for the Guardian newspaper.
Cartoon reference number: a103
Cartoon about the web of life – and the spider of death.
Cartoon about the web of life & the spider of death.
The term “The Web of Life” is generally taken to imply something positive, about the interrelatedness of all living things. However, in nature, webs are generally dangerous things, constructed to ensnare prey. I like this dichotomy. In fact, rather than it pointing out the inappropriateness of the ‘web’ metaphor I think it gets it right, even if it does so inadvertently.
The cartoon is an attempt to overturn the rather anodyne and pseudo-spiritually reassuring notion of a benevolent web of life, replacing it with a more ambiguous and unsettling notion based on the same metaphor.
It’s partly about the notion of nature, red in tooth and claw.
Cartoon reference number: a100
Cartoon about Hell – no mobile phone signal in Hell.
The fact that there is no cell phone signal in Hell is one of the reasons why Hell is Hell.
Part of the humour of this joke is that people are so reliant on cell phones or mobile phones that the idea of not being able to get a signal is truly terrifying and hellish.
It’s a cartoon about people’s dependency on and addiction to modern technology, without which they feel alienated and cast adrift.
The phone signal is fading in the same way that it does when one goes down an escalator into the underground or subway.
Cartoon reference number: a099
Cartoon about religious evangelism – trying to convert people to a religion by making special introductory offers.
Cartoon – evangelists trying to convert people to a religion by making special introductory offers – eternal life, forgiveness of sins and so on.
For more on my thoughts on religion, philosophy and related matters, see my book on the subject.
Cartoon about religious conversion, door-knocking religions, incentives for religion, missionaries, religions saving people’s souls, religious pragmatism.
Cartoon reference number: a098
Cartoon about the passage of life.
Mortality cartoon – a person walking along a track that represents ‘life’ – with a starting point and an end.
The point of this cartoon is that it illustrates an individual life as a short event that is surrounded by a void – it has ’emptiness’ surrounding it (before it started and after it ends).
I’ve deliberately depicted the course of the person’s life as nothing more than a track similar to a race track for a short running race. This emphasises the brevity of life, as seen in some ways. The track is also totally lacking in features, as if nothing is achieved during the life of the person. This is a deliberate over exaggeration, used here to depict only one possible ‘mood’ about the nature of existence. It also emphasises the vast space at ether end of life.
This rather depressing view of existence isn’t my own personal view – it’s just one of many possible views (See the cartoon of the person sunbathing in an hourglass for an alternative).
Cartoon about intimations of mortality, existentialism, mid life crisis, existentialist crisis, death, meaning of life, purpose of life, life’s brief candle, philosophy, the fearful void.
Cartoon reference number: a097
Cartoon about the passage of time and its implications on our view of life.
Mortality cartoon – a person sunbathing by lying on the sand in an hourglass – as the sand trickles away.
The person in the cartoon doesn’t seem to mind the fact that time is running out, otherwise he’d perhaps try to block the hole in the hourglass rather than just lie on the sand. Or is he unaware of what’s happening? It’s all very ambiguous, which it should be.
Cartoon about time running out, intimations of mortality, existentialism, zen, mid life crisis, existentialist crisis (or lack of), death, meaning of life, purpose of life, hedonism, philosophy.
Cartoon reference number: a096
Ethics cartoon. Morality cartoon.
Cartoon about morality and ethics. A man with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.
The devil in the cartoon has thrown his trident and killed the angel.
A variation on the idea that the devil has all the best tunes.
A cartoon about the battle between good and evil, philosophy.
Cartoon reference number: a094
Happiness cartoon. The pursuit of happiness
Happiness cartoon – the pursuit of happiness. Showing a person chasing party balloons like a donkey pursuing a carrot on a stick.
The cartoon illustrates people’s innate desire to pursue happiness.
The cartoon illustrates the concept that happiness is transient and can’t be grasped and kept permanently (symbolised by the idea of grabbing and hanging onto the party balloons in the illustration).
The cartoon depicts the pursuit of happiness as a motivation for people doing things.
A cartoon about people’s expectations of happiness, the elusiveness of happiness, the search for happiness, the pursuit of happiness, thwarted expectations, motivation, sense of discontentment, motivational activities.
Cartoon reference number: a090
Happiness cartoon or contentment cartoon.
Happiness cartoon – some people are never happy.
Cartoon showing a person flying in a hang glider, which is a form of high octane, high stimulation extreme sport, thinking “There must be more to life than this”.
The cartoon illustrated people’s innate sense of discontentment (which is one of the reasons why people are so achievement orientated, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing – or is it?).
A cartoon about people’s expectations of happiness, the elusiveness of happiness, the search for happiness, the pursuit of happiness, thwarted expectations, motivation.
Cartoon reference number: a089
Cartoon about death and the grim reaper.
Cartoon about death and the grim reaper. The grim reaper approaching some people who are trying to avoid him – but they are getting older and slower and won’t be able to outrun him for long.
A cartoon about mortality, death, time running out, intimations of mortality, old age.
Cartoon reference number: a088
There’s another version of this cartoon here.
Cartoon about eternal life’s down side.
Eternal life cartoon.
A cartoon about immortality, life after death, heaven, hell, philosophy, religion.
Cartoon reference number: a087
Religion cartoon – Jesus knocking at the door of an atheist, trying to convert him to Christianity.
Cartoon showing an atheist answering the door and finding that the person there is who is trying to convert him to religion is Jesus.
By the way, I have no religious convictions myself – I’m very much an atheist.
This cartoon is partly funny because it’s meant to some extent to be a ‘nonsense’ joke or absurdist concept.
On a more serious side, the cartoon also shows that everyone is capable of intransigence in the face of evidence (and atheists such as myself are often thought to be rather self satisfied by our level of rationality).
A cartoon about atheism, rationalism, evangelism, religious conversion, belief, denial, philosophy, philosophical or religious conviction, absurdism.
Cartoon reference number: a078
Religion cartoon, showing two bishops talking. One is saying that he thinks of the universe as a “god shaped whole” (a word play on the usual expression, God shaped hole.
Cartoon showing a bishop saying that he thinks of the universe as a “God shaped whole”.
This is a pun on the usual saying that people feel a “God shaped hole”.
By the way, I have no religious convictions myself. I’m very much an atheist. This cartoon is meant as an illustration of how people with a strong religious faith think, not how I think.
Cartoon reference number: a077
A cartoon parody of a Roy Lichtenstein painting.
Roy Lichtenstein’s art lends itself very well to parody and spoof in cartoons, not least because the paintings themselves are often almost direct copies of images lifted from the pages of comic books.
A Roy Lichtenstein style parody illustration on the subject of the meaning of life, the search for meaning, philosophy, existentialism, existentialist angst, what’s the meaning of life?.
Cartoon reference number: a065
Cartoon depicting a western businessman visiting an eastern guru to try to find the meaning of life. He wants the answer quickly, because he is very busy and is short of time.
This is possibly a cartoon criticising the emptiness of western capitalist consumerist society. Having said that, I’m not a follower of eastern (or any other) mystical or spiritual societies either!
The humour in the cartoon is related to the fact that the businessman expects the answer to his difficult question in a very short time – possibly because the businessman is used to his minions and advisors giving him information in bite-sized chunks and in over-simplified and un-nuanced form.
It is a cartoon about the materially rich, time-poor nature of modern capitalist society, and about the expectation that life should be easy, with any answers instantly available.
Cartoon reference number: a052
Cartoon showing a procession of people following each other in a circle.
A cartoon that is possibly about lack of leadership and lack of direction within groups, or on a larger social scale possibly about inward looking insular societies, restrictive religious, social or cultural traditions that stifle thought and progress.
A cartoon about leadership, followers, leaders, following like sheep, insularity, conservatism, orthodoxy, narrow mindedness.
Cartoon reference number: a051
This is a reworking of a popular cartoon of mine on the subject of atheism to mark the death of Christopher Hitchens, polemicist, contrarian, combative atheist.
In case there’s any doubt, I’m an atheist myself. This is a joke – it does not indicate that I believe in Heaven.
Any pro-Heaven websites or publications that use this cartoon without permission will be chased up and their owners will be asked to pay. Oh, and they’ll be condemned to eternal damnation for cheating. I only mention this because it happens too frequently for my liking.
Pro-religion websites and publications are more than welcome to use the cartoon as long as they seek permission and pay for the cartoon license, as I actually find religion very interesting but just don’t happen to believe in its tenets.
Obituary cartoon for Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great and many other diatribes against religion.
Cartoon drawn: 2011
Cartoon reference number: hch01
Philosophy cartoon or illustration
A man carrying a huge question mark, burdened by questions
A cartoon showing a man struggling to carry a huge, cumbersome question mark on his back. The dot of the question mark is a ball and chain attached to his ankle.
This is a cartoon about the burden that some people feel concerning questions about life, death, morality, existence, purpose, religion, spirituality, the meaning of life and so on
The fact that most of these questions are unanswerable can be something of a burden to some people depending on their psychological makeup.
Socrates said “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
This illustration suggests that it’s possible to overdo the questioning.
The burden of some questions are possibly a reason that some people turn to religion for answers, as religions claim to be able to answer the unanswerable questions
Drawn: February 2011
Cartoon reference number: que25
Theatre cartoon: a modern dress re-enactment of the crucifixion
A cartoon showing the passion of Christ set in modern dress. A comment on the fashion for updating historical works in order to make them supposedly more relevant.
A cartoon about theatrical productions of historical works of theatre set in modern day, contemporary costume
A cartoon about Easter, updating religion, the modern world, theater, accessibility, historical context, inappropriate dress
Cartoon drawn: 2011
Cartoon reference number: mod25
Cartoon – searching for happiness
The pursuit of happiness cartoon
A cartoon showing a person walking along a road in a quest to seek happiness. He is asking a person who lives alongside the road if he will find happiness and fulfilment along this route, as that is what he is seeking.
The local man says that he thinks that the traveller has passed the place he is looking for back along the route he has already taken (without noticing it)
A cartoon about expectations, contentment, never being happy, happiness always just out of reach, seekers after meaning, the meaning of life, grass is greener on the other side of the hill
Cartoon reference number: hap25
We are stardust – everything is stardust
An illustration of the idea that we are made of stardust. This is a nice idea, but the problem is that it’s more mundane than it sounds, as everything is made of stardust, including unpleasant things.
It’s a phrase that is given spiritual and pseudo-spiritual layers of meaning, but it is in fact just a statement of fact about the general nature, construction and evolution of the universe.
The fact that it’s just a fact doesn’t actually make it less that incredible though. It’s just that everything is incredible about the universe, even without pseudo-spiritual overtones
The phrase “We are stardust” first gained popularity in the song by Joni Mitchell. It is popular again now because it is used by scientists such as professor Brian Cox (who is the scientific equivalent of a pop star)
Cartoon drawn: 2011
Cartoon reference number: dust25
How to be happy
A cartoon showing happiness. A person thinking happy thoughts that are acting like an umbrella to keep rain off, or as a buffer against the unpleasant side of experience
Psychology cartoon about mental states, mindsets, positive thoughts, positive thought processes, optimism, glass half full, how to be happy, positive energy, cheery, therapy, cbt, cognitive behavioural therapy, smile, smiling
Cartoon drawn: 2011
Cartoon reference number: hap881
Psychology illustrations. The mind set of an optimist.
Psychology cartoons – a cartoon showing how optimism works. Showing a person thinking optimistic thoughts that are acting like an umbrella to keep rain off.
Psychology cartoon about mental states, mindsets, positive thoughts, positive thought processes, happiness, glass half full, how to be happy, positive energy, cheery, therapy, cbt, cognitive behavioural therapy, smile, incurable optimist, projection.
Cartoon reference number: opt88
See also the accompanying illustration about pessimism.