The Quote Hanger

"If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance."
- George Bernard Shaw

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Best Medicine

It's strange how you spot and retain little bits of insight from the most unlikely places. About two months ago, I was reading a lengthy interview of Anne Hathway's in 'Marie Claire.' She had apparently been in an approximately four year long relationship, which came to an abrupt halt when the man in question was imprisoned. A little while later, for her appearance on a talk-show, Hathway wrote and performed a humorous rap song, wherein there was a light-hearted reference to her former relationship. The interviewer seemed surprised by her ability to almost immediately joke about what must have certainly been an immensely traumatic incident. When she was questioned her about it, Hathway said, "That’s always been the way I deal with things. You make a joke of it. When you feel like a lot of things are out of your control, there is a certain power in being able to say, 'Ha! I’m laughing at it first." She goes on to say, "People deal with horrible things all the time. Downstairs in this pub someone has a parent who is battling cancer. Someone has just lost their job ... Life is really fucked up and it’s really painful sometimes." Laughter, according to her, is a way to "doggy-paddle" until one can accept the circumstances and move one. 

No, she certainly isn't saying anything extraordinary. I'm sure similar suggestions have been implied in a dozen different ways in self-help books or depressingly optimistic posters/cliches. But somehow, what she said in that interview seems to come back to me occasionally. A feeling of control does arise in being able to chuckle, if not laugh, at your so-called plight. Perhaps that's what makes Woody Allen films so endearingly funny and poignant.  

If you're able to laugh at something, it usually means that you're able to regard it objectively, to accept it, and to dismiss it as mildly amusing - and that is a gigantic step forward if you're anxious or distraught about that something. 

Well, those were my two cents for the Wisdom Jar, now here are Kurt Vonnegut's: "Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion.  I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."


RegularEverydayNormalGuy said...


M said...

Heh, its usually very nice when one can quote Anne Hathaway and Vonnegut in the same breath. Also, yeah, one can usually joke about their own problems but there also has to be an understanding always that somewhere out there exists a greater suffering. I realize, that its not usually enough, but then again, why are we not still moved by someone suffering in south Africa as opposed to someone here in New Delhi, or Mumbai or wherever. Its merely these lines that we draw in our heads segregating one kind of suffering from another. I'm not just talking about national boundaries here. I'm just saying, whether its your sibling, your best friend, an acquaintance, or even a stranger, its all about empathy and in order to achieve it, one has to be a lot less self absorbed. Answers lie about, like orphans. Adopt one.

Insignificant said...

Yes, yes, whenever I am overcome by my petty troubles, my constant refrain to myself is, "There are people starving in Africa! There are bigger problems in the world!" Though that may sound frivolous, I don't intend to mock global issues. I found it especially interesting and coincidental that Hathway does the same thing in the interview - mention others' problems as far more grave immediately after talking about her own. It makes me wonder whether it's a defense mechanism, sometimes - if you instantly attempt to belittle your own worries, you don't have to really deal with them. When I do this myself, I am often reminded of what a friend once told me when she heard my rationalisation - just because your problem isn't as significant or as large as someone else's, doesn't mean it isn't a problem, too, and it doesn't mean that it shouldn't affect you. But yes, that's a random digression.

As for empathy, I suppose we're generally preoccupied with ourselves and the people around us. So, empathising with them comes far more easily than with those we don't really know, or who are removed from us. Maybe it is self-absorption, but I think it is, to some extent, inevitable. We perceive the world through our own individual sensibility. The "I" always will come first, I think. Though yes, I do think that putting things in perspective is essential, especially if wallowing is involved.

Thank you for your thought-provoking comments!

M said...

You call yourself insignificant, you are the hundredth person who hasnt seen my face and managed to make me smile.

M said...

Wait, that came out wrong. Youve made me smile because you are the hundredth one.

Insignificant said...

Hahah, how?