- I live in my own place,
have never copied nobody even half,
and at any master who lacks the grace
to laugh at himself—I laugh.
OVER THE DOOR TO MY HOUSE
- ~preface to Nietzsche's The Gay Science
I can honestly tell you I never understood this until now. Who wants to be laughed at? We all have a fear of being made ridiculous. Nobody likes to be mocked and nobody likes others to think they are stupid.
But think, oh think, of how much you cannot do so long as you are busy worrying about what everyone else will think? Why did I not see this before? Why am I so colossally dense at times?
This epiphany occurred to me in Hebrew class today. "Come, Chana," I coached myself, "are you really not going to talk at all just because you know you speak poorly? Then how are you ever going to learn!" And so I have talked in the most mangled, garbled Hebrew possible (well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the gist of it) and do you know, it made me happy! I was cracking up the whole time! Because my God, what a joke! It's hilarious; it's absolutely funny. And if I treat it all as a game, for the strangest reason it doesn't bother me at all! I suppose I shouldn't have liked it if everyone had started laughing at me at once, but seeing as we're all there to learn, why should I be scared?
It's so irrational, all these fears of mine. Who cares? Why should I care? Why should I need to be serious in order to be respected, and in fact, whose respect do I need to earn if I have my own self-respect? And if I don't have mine, then we really have problems...What is this blog if not me making a fool of myself day in and day out? Imagine how many of these concepts and ideas that I express now will make me cringe one day in the future, imagine how I shall look back and laugh at all of them and wonder how anyone was able to stand me in all my idiocy! For some reason, this does not make me sad but very happy, and do you know why? Because it means I shall have grown.
But it's not limited to me! The joke's on all of us! In the future, we are going to look back and think that everything is futile and ridiculous and we shall laugh over the effort we have expended, but it will be the good kind of laughter, not the despairing kind, because we will know that at least we tried. We shall simply laugh because of what we envisioned ourselves to be as opposed to what we were, how we tried to hide behind bluster and facades when in truth, in truth? Oh, what were we in truth? Clouds, fleeting shadows, everything that is described... This seems extremely funny to me!
So why should I care? If I'm going to make a fool of myself, let me do it proudly! Let it be done happily! Out with the rouge and the red lipstick and the craziness and the insanity; if I am going to be foolish, then let me be foolish, let me make all my mistakes and do the things I will regret and possibly wreck my life over, let me do them all and cry over them, but at least let me do them and let me laugh through my tears. Yes, let me be a fool, for I know I am one, so why bother pretending to be anything but?
Have you read the fantastic poem by Jenny Joseph? It's such a happy poem.
by Jenny Joseph
WHEN I AM AN OLD WOMAN I SHALL WEAR PURPLE
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
Let's redo it! I shall have to redo it to be, "When I am a Young Girl, I Shall Laugh at Myself." And I shall rejoice in all my idiocies and all my mistakes, for how could I move forward without them? And sometimes I shall be incredibly serious and somber and take myself very seriously, and sometimes I shall be unhappy, and sometimes it will be with good reason, but most of the time I will laugh at myself and everything that is, for there is nothing more entertaining than oneself, now is there?
What could be more entertaining than watching all the mistakes I make and repenting of them within moments of making them? I tell you, my life is my one great drama; it is a pity that I am the only one who gets to benefit from its intrigues and strange charm. I am such a muddle of things that I must confuse anyone I meet, if they even think of me at all- and if they do not, how charming; that is one more thing to laugh about! Let us laugh about the things that seem to matter so much in the dark of the night and matter not one whit in the light of the morning, let us laugh over everything, but let us laugh joyfully! For I shall not destroy with this laughter, but gently undo, and gently tear down, and gently teach myself what I do not want to know, and that is to let go...
Strange how my mind knows all it wants to teach me, but it will only let me see it when I am ready.
"Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused." ~Anonymous
Yes, blessed, blessed laughter!