When I was finally able to pull myself off the floor and back into my chair this morning — one of the problems of having four broken vertebrae combined with overly hearty laughter — I realized that this was too good to keep to myself.
Facebook can a mishmash of hate-filled nonsense, a whole lot of religious pap, ridiculous memes, cat videos, horrific stuff that breaks the heart and every so often, something that sends you over the moon.
This morning was one of those over-the-moon times.
I’d been excoriating myself for getting involved in a business relationship that had cost me time and money. If you’re like me, you can, at times, take out a cat ‘o nine tails and heave to. While on one hand I take full responsibility for my mistakes, I sometimes have a hard time letting go.
Enter this morning’s well-timed meme:
EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON
SOMETIMES THAT REASON IS BECAUSE YOU ARE STUPID AND MAKE BAD DECISIONS.
My stomach still aches from laughing.
No truer words.
YES I did something stupid. YES it cost me. YES I wish I hadn’t done it.
And yes, this is funny as hell.
Finding Your Funny
In 2004 I attended a superb seminar run by two incredibly talented members of the Colorado National Speaker’s Association, Karyn Ruth White (a comedienne) and Jay Arthur. Their book, Your Seventh Sense, How to Think Like a Comedian, had just come out.
The single most important message I got from that seminar, and which I have been able (more often than not) to put to use was this:
When things are absolutely positively awful, when life has gone to crap, ask yourself, “What would my favorite comedian do with this material?”
At the time, and still today, for me, that was Robin Williams.
No matter what kind of pity party I found myself in, the moment I asked this question it would send me into gales of giggles. I couldn’t help it. It was a foolproof system. It’s impossible to take yourself seriously when you imagine the Great Robin on stage, making mincemeat of your wailing about being “about to die because so-and-so (who is a first-rate JERK) won’t call you any more.”
I promptly installed Robin on my hard drive.
What that’s allowed me to do is accordion the time between tragedy and comedy a la famous Mark Twain quote “Humor is tragedy plus time.” The faster I can see the joke, the sooner I heal. That has led to my being consumed by guffaws in situations that other people find very, very serious. Too serious, in fact. So serious that they can’t move forward, can’t get a damned thing done. People get consumed by blame, finger pointing, angst, anxiety, viciousness, the need to be right at all costs.
There is no room for creativity in such an evil stew.
Shrouded in Shoulds
And that’s my whole point. When we’re mad at ourselves, at the situation, furious at our inability to be perfect, shrouded in shoulds, should have known better’s and should have done this that and all the others, we can’t move forward.
When we should on ourselves, we’ve lost our sense of humor.
When you inject humor, there is immense creativity. Magic. ( Among other things, Jay Arthur is a practicing shaman, so he knows a few things about magic. )Anyone who has ever watched Robin Williams in action, especially free form, is in awe. Pure untrammeled creativity. When we look for what’s funny, we find solutions. Solutions often arrive in forms we don’t anticipate because anger makes us blind.
Anger locks us into righteousness. Fear of being wrong. Being imperfect.
Comedy Creates Creativity
I’m a Bronco fan. Years ago I remember a moment during The Drive, January 11, 1987. Pinned under the shadow of Cleveland’s goal posts, Elway had five minutes to takes his Broncos 98 yards to win the 1986 AFC Championship game. As Elway gathered his men in the huddle, Broncos offensive guard Keith Bishop was purported to say of the Browns,
“Okay guys, we’ve got ’em right where we want ‘em!”
This cracked the team up. Full of endorphins, loose and laughing, Elway marched his team down the field to tie the game in regulation, then win with a field goal in overtime.
Similarly, during the Super Bowl on January 22nd, 1989, at a critical moment of the game, Joe Cool Montana gazes up into the stands and comments to his tense huddle, “Hey! Isn’t that John Candy?” That broke the ice, and what happened next is history.
Permission to Fail Granted: the Art of the Fool
There is enormous grace in giving ourselves permission to screw up royally. In this we revel in what it is to be human. Laughter provides relief. Not only that, but hilarity opens the floodgates to find solutions which are closed when we are in lockdown. When we take ourselves far too seriously.
In Elizabethan times, the court often had a jester or fool. The fool sat at the monarch’s feet and had permission to say things that no one else could get away with, because he could make people laugh. He was often the wisest person in the room. The fool kept his head- because he was funny. But he also got the royals to consider solutions that they otherwise couldn’t see when they took themselves and their august positions too seriously. The worst punishment a famous Elizabethan jester got was a royal sulk. Richard Tarleton, the most famous clown of his era (he died in 1588) not only kept his head, he advised the queen on her foolishness, and probably saved a nation. His influence paved the way for Shakespearean theatre. Not bad for a fool.
My “fool” is Robin Williams.
When we remember to be playful, especially with ourselves, we inject gentility, joy and creativity into our lives.
And occasionally we fall on the floor laughing.
Not a bad thing at all, even with a bum back.