Jokes as Entertainment & Entertainment as Reassurance

I’m trying to figure out why we are so obsessed with finding some deeper sense of self in life. We have created this. It is a perverse rite of passage that has been crafted over time. It is almost as if when a child hits a certain pre-pubescent age they must immediately begin to foster doubt, storing it away so that they can obsess over it as soon as they hit puberty. Furthermore, that is what every teenager is told about college and adulthood, that they’re required then to go on a grandiose search. The run of the mill, coming of age years were created mostly by the entertainment industry. This concept is not meant to demean anyone. There are certainly folks who deal with strife and have to overcome it, but that does not mean every person must wrestle with inner demons. You are not broken if you simply exist. In ‘Some Remarks on Kafka’s Funniness’ David Foster Wallace hits the nail on the head, as he often did: “The horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle.” It is a vicious cycle. All of this just to meet some predetermined objective. Is it possible that maybe we are not all special snow flakes? It sounds cynical, I’m aware. But honestly, can’t we all just exist? We all want to be bigger, smarter, stronger, more attractive, and most of all we want to be well liked.

Being well liked doesn’t really appeal to me. I’m sure that isn’t a believable statement to many but it is true. Sure, there is the burst of excitement when someone shows interest, but after the jolt turns to tingles and then disappears all together it only becomes tedious. There is so much expectation that comes along with human interaction. For example, even the smallest one, how fucked up does it feel when you lag back an extra moment to hold open the door for a stranger and they do not say thank you or even acknowledge your existence? That is expectation strangling us, leaving our necks spurned with black and blue resentment. I hate any expectation. The pressure is as unbearable for me as a plane ride with no chewing gum next to a screaming baby. It is in my experience that I often rise to the occasion when pushed into action but I hate meeting it. My loved ones have likened it to some kind of psychopath behavior. I will hate every moment of things but damn it, I’ll be good at it and use it to my advantage. This might be my entire life in a nutshell. I tend to joke with others about how I hate people despite my various social skills. This is almost worse than having no social skills at all. It is like having some gift you certainly do not want. A lot of money has been made with superhero stories similar to that premise. I would gladly relinquish the power if I could. But I cannot. So I fight expectation and I stress over remaining solitary. It is essential to my survival.

The world could be a calmer place if we were a little more concerned with meeting our own goals, not the ones others regulate. I wonder what it would be like to live a life in which you did not worry about what another would think. Dreaming is a powerful tool. Success only comes when it is paired with the idea that any dream is worth pursuing. We will not all become uber successful entertainers, or leaders of countries, or rich business investors, or famous athletes. A lot of us will do seemingly mundane work but it does not diminish your worth. It is okay to be ordinary. What is ordinary to one may be extraordinary to another.

But this soapbox is a little high for my liking. It is my own crank psychoanalyzing at play here. I only share this diatribe out frustration. Maybe it is all too frank but maybe that is what I need more of. This week I joked that I had finally become a writer because I received a rejection letter. My own humor trying snuff out insecurities. In the same piece by David Foster Wallace he explains that “our culture has trained to see jokes as entertainment and entertainment as reassurance.” Maybe that is what all of this is: reassurance. In the absence of confidence there are only words.

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