When you break out the syllables of the word “meme,” (silent e included)  it sounds pretty ego-centric, and in a way I guess memes are that. But maybe they should be titled “usus” instead.

What I find so fascinating about the phenomenon of memes is that they are contemporary and culturally telling. To me, they are one of the most interesting developments of recent generations. They are reflexive, humorous, cheesy,  even mocking. They can be sarcastic, or serious, or both at once. They give unsolicited advice, usually propogated through (un)holy social media. They capitalize on the power of the image and words. They can capture a zeitgeist, like looking in the mirror for our society, and they are brilliantly open-sourcey.

In the past few years, I have made a practice of saving memes that spoke to me for one reason or another. I’ve been looking back through them lately. Here are some greatest hits from the file. Upcycling them somehow feels like the right thing to do, the way a cover band emulates a great musician, or a hip hop artist honors their predecessors by spitting their names and splicing up and then remixing their material.

Some memes sum things up better than you feel capable of doing yourself:

99-problems

Other memes reflect perfectly the school of thought you subscribe to:

There are those designed purely for the enjoyment of sports fanatics:

goat-curry

Some memes make valid, political points:

Some of them help you to laugh at yourself:

periodwhattimeisit

While others just make you laugh out loud:

pokemongo

crownvics

Memes often quote important historical, artistic and literary figures:

Some memes are pleas for more rational behavior:

debate-commandmentsbereal

Sometimes, reality surpasses the power of a meme, so you just rely on the crafty, the comic artist, the author, or the camera to make a point:

Obstacle

Other times, you just need some instructions to follow, or at least some diagrams:

sinkunclogbigbubblessunsalutations

Some memes make good use of stick figures:

jarofhappinessshowntellmindvomit

This meme seeks to make some sense out of a pretty non-sensical world by acknowledging how senseless it all is:

whatthefuck

This one highlights the absurdity of it all:

lakewatermeloncat

This one needs no words.

sky-painting

While these make graphics out of words:

 

Lots of memes are schmaltzy as all get-out (but also sort of heart warming):

ts-elioti-love-your-feet

just-be-there

11021519_10153400049349101_3593147680888695519_n

light-in-the-darkest-places

There are countless memes that state basic, universal truths:

While some give conflicting, if not bad or mutually exclusive, motivational speeches:

This one speaks aptly to the choices we face in life:

crossroads

Last, and most important, this meme rightly reminds us of our priorities:

say-i-love-you