The Direction of Laughter

I’m not laughing AT you, I’m laughing WITH you. Well, yes, I know you’re not laughing externally, but internally, once you carve through the overwhelming shame and embarrassment you’ll get to the humor part. Once you get there, you’ll realize we’re all laughing at the same thing. We’re laughing at the human experience. The at/with divide will shrink, it’s terminable, but the brief moment of happiness you created allowed for a brief reprieve from the general malaise of life!

Image Source (Ophelia Photos courtesy of Creative Commons)
Image Source (Ophelia Photos courtesy of Creative Commons)

Am I laughing at you in this moment? Sure, but isn’t all humor situational? I’m only laughing because what just happened to you is hilarious…as long as it isn’t me. And it wasn’t me! Thus, funny. Think about it, if it wasn’t you subjected to the crushing embarrassment and derision of your peers, wouldn’t you join in the malicious joy?

Did I ask if you were okay first? I didn’t? Yikes, sorry about that. That was rude of me. But this oversight was not due to a lack of concern but simply because the expression of hilarity combined with a visual assessment of the situation superseded a general concern for your well-being.

Charles Shultz's version of schadenfreude for some reason involves kids boozing.
Charles Shultz’s version of schadenfreude for some reason involves kids boozing.

If we didn’t laugh, if I stopped laughing, or never laughed, would you really feel better? You’d still do the horribly inhuman thing of being a human and messing up as all humans do, but instead of the schadenfreude that your action invoked, we’d be forced into stunned silence. Would you prefer our judgmental stares to the brief joy that your mess-up afforded us?

Of course none of us want to be seen as lesser or as a source of derision, but there’s an art, a gift in debasing one’s self in such a manner that it doesn’t invoke pity, but rather a smile and delight. Who cares what direction the laughter is flowing? Who cares if you’re able to share in the laugh at the moment? Given enough time, you will look back and enjoy the enjoyment you gave others or that others enjoyed as a result. You created joy–albeit inadvertently–and now you want to take it away!?! What kind of person wants to rob people of joy? Are you a monster!?!

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12 Comments

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  1. It’s SO awkward when someone falls and you think it’s going to be one of those times when EVERYONE laughs but it turns out nobody but you is laughing. I have been there buddy. Especially with old people. Old people falling apparently is not as hilarious as I think it is.

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  2. Mom once told me “Just because people laugh at you doesn’t mean that you’re funny.” Thanks, Mom.

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    • “The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown. – Carl Sagan

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  3. Are you talking about that guy that jumped off the roof and a bone was sticking out his skin like a broken twig-branch or the guy that kicked another guy in the crotch or the guy twisted to death in an avalanche that so many people laugh like poo flinging monkeys? I’m such an evil monster!

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  4. Did someone tell you off recently, Pickleope? Is that what this is all about?

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  5. First of all, I had to look up schadenfreude to be sure I knew what you meant. There must be a bit of German in your background? In any case, your post reminds me of all those “funniest home videos” and invariably there is some fellow being hit in the crotch with everyone laughing. Really? Get’s a bit tiresome, and I’m sure not funny to the guy.

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  6. abeerfortheshower March 23, 2015 — 8:43 am

    ^^ No German necessary to appreciate a little schadenfreude.

    Maybe it’s just the years of self deprecation, but I love laughing at myself. Plus, it makes it all the more acceptable to laugh at others. Or… least I tell myself it does.

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  7. Sounds like you got into a little hot water. Just blow it off. People are just too crazy nowadays.

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  8. I’m just impressed that you used schadenfreude. It’s right up there with the zeitgeist.

    Love,
    Janie

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  9. Oh how I hate it when someone falls I crack up only to find people looking at me like I pushed them over in order to laugh or something

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