A liberal-leaning friend chastised me recently for something I said on spacebook. I joked in passing (in the comments of one of my own posts) that I had had a friend in the early 1990’s who had made a real nuisance of himself, calling every night and talking at length about how bad his life was. I finally told him that I had been thinking about his problems and had come up with a solution. He needed to find a place out in the woods where he wouldn’t bother anyone and get it over with. I had a .38 he could have if he needed it. My friend quit calling me every night, and he didn’t commit suicide.
Now to be clear I knew this fellow pretty well. I had worked with him for quite a while, and I had listened thoughtfully to him for many hours – over the course of several nights – offering suggestions for how he might move forward. Nothing changed, and I had my own stresses to deal with. I knew my friend well enough to know that he was just throwing a pity party. He was NOT in the depths of depression. He just wanted someone else to fix his problems for him, like we all sometimes do. He was back to his old self again a few weeks later.
For perspective, I will interject here that there have been friends of mine with whom I would not have done this, knowing their family history or state of mind.
Returning to spacebook, my [so-called] liberal friend was horrified at this story. “You never joke about suicide!” he remarked. He was older than I and had gotten wealthy a decade before in the millwork business. A likable guy and a good businessman. I was a little surprised though at his reaction. I have spent much of my life studying leadership, psychology and human nature. I am weary of people who are caught up in this modern fixation on feelings. The next day I posted the following:
from a time when humor was actually funny…
“The thing I don’t understand about the suicide person is the people who try to commit suicide, for some reason they don’t die, and that’s it. They stop trying. Why don’t they just keep trying? What’s changed? Is their life any better now? No. In fact, it’s worse, because now they’ve found out here’s one more thing you stink at. And that’s why these people don’t succeed at life to begin with. They give up too easy.
I say, pills don‘t work? Try a rope. Car won’t start in the garage? Get a tune-up. There’s nothing more rewarding than reaching a goal you’ve set for yourself.”
— Jerry Seinfeld, from his book SeinLanguage, 1993
What makes comedy funny is that it parodies life. It says things that we might not otherwise say in polite society, and does so in an absurd, roundabout or exaggerated way. Poking fun while maintaining some sense of grace. It tickles us by bringing to the front things our subconscious mind already knows. By its nature it is not politically correct, and doesn’t try to be, or makes fun of the political-correctness itself.
When you live in a society however that is already a parody of itself, already pulp fiction – pathos drenched in yet more pathos… redistilled – where is there a place for humor? Real humor. Sadly – laugh – it is needed more than ever.
I sensed that my point was made. I also believe that when we really care about people it is our duty to talk straight to them. It should be done in a thoughtful way, but it should be done. We can often achieve more in a few days of tough love, than we can in weeks or months of pussyfooting around. This is why a generation of those who need “safe spaces” are doomed to be the slaves of others.
originally posted to spacebook 2019-05-27