There’s fun in the dysfunction. There are also shouts and outbursts; but look at the industry that was built around Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Jon Oliver, and Larry Wilmore. How can you laugh at a time like this? Because, it is the best choice available, even in the worst moments. Sometimes that is by choice, but a lot of times laughter is by necessity. Hunting for the funny is a valid strategy, but sometimes you have to keep the joke and the punch line to yourself.
I’m planning a sequel to Dream. Invest. Live. If you don’t remember the first book, know that it is the basis for this blog. Go back to the earliest posts and find a different tone and set of topics. Then, the Great Recession hit everyone, in the midst of which I was hit by my Triple Whammy. Scenarios that were imagined but not expected played out, usually moment by declining moment, and occasionally by abrupt drops. It can be inconceivable to find laughter in there. Comedy is about timing, and finding the right timing is a marvelous coping strategy. Now, I have to find the right timing for the sequel, and find the right way to add the funny.
In retrospect, the fears were funny. The fears I had about losing my wealth were academic, lacked perspective, and were concerned with only those things I could imagine. The real fears from the real threats weren’t funny because reality was revealed. The absurdity of the situation, however, eventually percolated through. At the start, the lag time was weeks or days. Years into this process, the lag time can be so short as to be inappropriate. That’s actually good, because realizing the unreal nature of reality is a sign of awareness.
A deal fell through. That’s a disappointment, but the good news is that I was considered as responsible contributor for yet another deal. One deal fell through because I happen to be friends with one group, and another group didn’t like that. What is this, junior high for seniors? One deal fell through because someone decided to sleep with someone that they weren’t supposed to, and someone else understandably got upset, which upset yet another someone that had the money. As if I had anything to do with that one falling apart. One deal fell through where the person with the money was going to hire me full time as executive director, but only after they had a bit more money, but before that happened the SEC froze their assets. That’s another one I won’t try to fix. But the potential was so great. I could go on, and probably will in the sequel.
Watching some underpaid young adult sprint to my house to play tag with it as some sort of proof of occupancy to the debt servicer. Watching another one drive by with hands off the wheel because both hands were being used to take a picture of my house then just getting control of the car before it veered off the road. Being followed through a local store I’ve shopped in for years by a police officer for no other reason I can think of other than I was wearing a hoodie. Really? And each of these people got paid to do this?
The people with the greatest fears about money are the people with the most money. There’s an appreciation for the fragility of wealth in the modern world, and I happen to be an example of what can happen because of a string of bad luck. That scares a lot of people; and while rationality assures others that bad luck is not contagious, many seem to play it safe by increasing their distance. Cough. Cough. Is there an hand sanitizer that fights poverty?
The people with the greatest concerns are those that have already lost, or have never acquired, wealth. Fears can be abstract. Facing the reality of the concerns of not having enough money to pay the bills becomes more specific because every life is unique. I live alone and have never had kids. I don’t worry about child care, saving for college, or finding ways for children to enjoy life without being ostracized. Others do. I, however, need to concern myself with the expenses that support my business which provides my income: computers, internet access, fueling and maintaining the truck that replaced my Jeep, taxes. They may not care about computers and transportation. When you don’t know what you’ll lose, you don’t know what you’ll have to protect. After you know what to protect, the list of concerns shrinks. Life becomes simpler, even as it becomes tenuous.
Watching my computer decide to not boot, that’s a worry that isn’t funny; until after it goes ding and remembers what it was designed to do. Watching my fence fall down for the third or fourth time, that gets to be downright silly; but it wouldn’t be for my friends who reduce expenses by growing most of their food. Watching a friend get upset about some slight to my situation can be hilarious; which can be a shared laugh, but is equally likely to be an opportunity to stifle it and show appreciation for how much they care.
About a month ago I came up with an idea that I thought would work well for a company. A couple of suggestions evaporated, and I put them aside to work on independently later. Ta da! Guess what they decided to launch as a national initiative? Wow that has an amazing resemblance to my idea. As a friend put it, I could either laugh or throw something. There’s nothing in particular that I want to throw because I can’t afford to replace anything that may break, so I laughed. About the same time, another friend commented on how hard I was working and how that probably wasn’t healthy. My laughter went straight to the border between hilarity and hysteria and danced along the edge. Of course, this is level of effort can be unhealthy. But it is the best choice available. Besides, the laughter helps.
If you are going through a similar situation and find yourself stifling a laugh, go ahead and laugh. You might have wait until you get home, close the door, run the water, and turn on the radio; but laugh. There is fun in the dysfunction because society is really quite silly. It isn’t real. We made most of this up because it seemed like a good idea at the time, but we are only imperfect humans. Mistakes will be made. Be concerned about the legitimate concerns, laugh at the rest as you can. And, if you haven’t lost it yet, don’t worry, don’t fear. You may never get here, and it is only when you get here that you know what to worry about. Focus on the few key serious bits and realize you won’t have to hunt for the funny. It will be all around you.
(Really, advertisers. Do you realize how your serious ads quickly become comedies when viewed by people who know what really matters?)