“Why did the chicken cross the road” tells us a bit about jokes. It’s a joke about jokes. The first half is a setup, reminding us that an absurd question creates tension, which is then relieved by the punchline.
But the second half undoes this by refusing to release the tension. “To get to the other side” is banal. There’s no point to this Q&A. And so we sit, empty, unsure about what happens next. The absence of a punchline reminds us of how much we care about punchlines.
On the other hand, “which came first, the chicken or the egg,” isn’t a joke at all. Instead, it’s a false paradox based on a misunderstanding of Darwinian evolution and taxonomy. The only thing that can be born from a chicken egg is a chicken, whereas something that’s almost a chicken could lay a chicken egg. In fact, that’s how we got chickens in the first place. The egg came first.
But that’s not the reason for the question. The question exists to create instability, to cause us tension as we seek to find our footing in the face of an infinite loop.
Conversations and interactions become more than rote performance precisely because we can create, seek out and relieve tension.
Instability into stability and back again.