Amalthea (amaltheae) wrote,

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Humor and healing

Some folks on a mailing list I participate on were struggling with someone's posting of humor related to recent tragedies and were very offended by the posting of humor, expressing that it wasn't approptiate at a time like this or on a public list. Me, being me, I couldn't help opening my big mouth. :) My response follows:

Normally I would not respond, but perhaps some personal philosophy stands a chance of soothing. In a world as large as this one, with tools like the internet at our disposal, it is inevitable that we will come across people who function differently and on different levels than each of us do about the events of a given day, week or year. And at times when our strongest emotions are involved, it is inevitable that we will perceive more things as difficult to read, see or hear. It is most important, then, at those times to attempt to understand the source's reasons to discern the usefulness of reactions. If it is possible that their intent was only to deal with their emotion in their own way, and help others like them, then usually there is more peace to be found from moving on, or privately asking their intent and expressing the distress you're feeling, because usually you will find, as in this case, that the intent was not to offend, but to share a little bit of the "coming to terms, lightening the load and moving on" journey the person had traveled for others who might share in their path toward moving on. All of us have probably been helped through some tragedy or frustration with humor. This tragedy is, in that regard, exactly the same save the list of people it effected to varying degrees which changes in number and name with every travesty.

Many of you have probably heard of the online Darwin awards. I had an acquaintance who re-posted a page from the Darwin awards site to her cross-stitch group mailing list like she had many times before in cases that the stories were particularly hard to believe and therefore funny to the human mind trying to come to terms with its own vast fallibility. It happened that the sister of the person in the story was on that mailing list. She was a woman who had often laughed at such postings before, but she was very angry and hurt at this particular posting, despite the fact that the person had no way to know since no name was used, that it was a story close to a fellow subscriber. The poster felt terrible and has since stopped posting anything funny because she could not predict the reactions of all of the readers and the loud public argument was so far from her intent, and considerable guilt was handed her way. In the end, they were both entitled to their methods of coping with such knowledge, as were they both entitled to share in those feelings.

My mother does not send me religious jokes and stories because she is trying to convince me to participate in her beliefs. She sends the things that are meaningful to her, so that I will not miss out on something she found somehow important. When we can understand things for their intent we are much better at getting along and moving forward.

It is important to remember that the capacity for laughter and all forms of humor is part of what makes us human. It is our way of coming to terms with each other and ourselves. It is our way of not opening fire at the post office or stabbing our boss with the scissors for that final straw. It is a mechanism to lighten grief, and a tool we use for moving on and trying to guide our sense of perspective about our own meaninglessness in the universe. All of those reasons can cut close to home for some but all of them do have a value. If you have ever used humor to deal with an event that you struggled with, allow other people their need to do the same, knowing that the intent was not to hurt, and knowing that a world without humor would be a much less pleasant place to be for all of us. Do not stop expressing when it hurts, but also do not deny them their means for expression. We will all learn more for the honesty.

For me, at least, our very diversity that is our strength is also the very thing that guarantees that how we cope and what we find in poor taste will vary greatly on our journey and accidentally hurt people along the way. There is no way to prevent that. The message could have come from a coworker as easily as from any list and with equal lack of maliciousness. And there are plenty of people out there who do mean us harm to focus on first, especially at times like this.

Wishing you all a good day and as much healing as possible.

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