Humor and Humility: Two Fell Blows to Narcissism
Obed tee flex|Aug. 08, 2019
Consider this scenario: You come home from a long, stressful day at your workplace. You’re stressed out, maxed out and burned out. Someone got their ego hurt and their knickers in a bundle at the office and all Hell broke loose… again . You’re grateful the drama is over for today but you’re dreading tomorrow. So you throw a Hungry Man dinner in the microwave, grab a cold beer and turn on the television.
Switching from station to station, one stressful scenario after another is being re-enacted, reported or dramatized. There are cop shows, both reality and dramas. Shows about Emergency Rooms. Shows about marriages imploding and exploding. Aliens infecting or abducting the people of Earth. And for your viewing enjoyment, the very worst of human nature is trotted out on the news at 5, 6 and 10 p.m. Stress, stress and more stress.
It’s like The-Powers-That-Be want us all to have adrenal fatigue! Whatever happened to MGM founder, Louis B. Mayer’s ( creep though we was!) philosophy that entertainment should be an ESCAPE that should uplift you from the grit and strain of your everyday life to sublime realms of joy, happiness and love!?
Now, I don’t have a TV at home but this what I observe on the odd occasions I get to watch TV in a hospital or hotel room: stress, stress and more stress . Each station is worse than the next. The only respite is Turner Classic movies and that station that plays reruns of old, old TV shows. Even the Comedy Channel rarely amuses me unless Bill Engvall or Jeff Foxworthy are playing.
So I want to know: What happened to humor???
Really, really good humor. Like I Love Lucy humor. Gut-busting, I-hope-I-don’t-wet-myself, endorphin-squirting, narcissism-bashing humor like Candid Camera . According to Wikipedia, it ended five years ago. That’s downright unAmerican!
I’d like to think we’re the nation that can laugh at itself. That we dig a good old-fashioned practical joke. That we take ourselves with a grain of salt and laugh as heartily at our own goof and oopsies as anyone else.
But fact is not on my side. In fact, many comedians report they are no longer able to play college campuses because everyone is so fragile, so brittle, so PC and supposedly so pumped with self-esteem… that no one can take a joke.
It seems like our quest to build the self-esteem of the nation has spectacularly backfired. Maybe we went about it all wrong.
Instead of teaching the next generation “you’re all winners” and “if you can dream it, you can do it” and “never, ever hurt anyone’s feelings” ( isn’t that codependency!?! ), we should’ve taught them “You’re not good at everything, so play to your strengths. And if you stumble, fall and fail, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and have a jolly good laugh at your own expense.”
That’s a person I’d like to know, someone who can laugh as heartily at themselves as they laugh at me when I walk out of the bathroom with toilet paper stuck to my shoe.
We wanted so badly to combat narcissism that we created a generation of worst narcissists than ever before. People who demand that the whole world conform to them …or else!
Along the way, we lost our sense of humor. We take everything so blasted seriously and that’s why the ultimately, quintessentially, blessedly American show, Candid Camera faltered.
That brings to mind General Anthony McAuliffe who was trapped in the Battle of the Bulge. That was in World War II, btw.
When der Führer’s generals demanded McAuliffe surrender, he dismissed them with one word:
Surprised and puzzled, the translator explained to the Germans that it meant “Go to Hell” but it really doesn’t. It means “ Nuts!” But you can’t have that kind of strength unless you have a great sense of humor.
Humor is the rubber that allows us to bend, but never break. Take it away and what’ve you got? Brittle, fragile, crystalline unhappy people so wrapped up in their egos and their wounded dignity that they make themselves and everyone around them perfectly miserable. A generation more narcissistic than ever before.
We’ve mistaken the nature of self-esteem. That’s where we went off the rails! Self-esteem is not me believing some nonsense that I’m brilliant at everything…because I’m not!
Self-esteem is being okay with your weaknesses and failings.
For example, the IRS is very sorry to inform me that, apparently, I goofed on my Earned Income Credit and owe them an addition $70.83. (For some reason, they don’t round to the nearest dollar. Which is odd if you think about it…but you must be really hard up for something to think about if you think about that! )
I’m okay with it because, no offense to my very good math teacher, Mr. House, I totally suck at mathematics. I weep over fractions, puzzle over the household budget, wave the white flag over the checkbook register and have been probably been cheated many a time when handed loose change. The Good Lord didn’t see fit to give me numbers. I readily admit it.
But He gave me words.
He gave me words but I don’t have the manual dexterity God gave a goose. Think about it. Geese don’t have hands …and they have it better than me.
My clumsiness has gotten slightly better, but when we were first married, Michael could practically set his watch by me burning myself at least once while cooking every, single meal. Including cold sandwiches and that takes some doing! 😉
I also can’t open jars. I perpetually drop stuff. It takes three tries to pick anything off the floor. And I’m generally as klutzy as Cuddles, my kitten. (Like me, she has a big badonkadonk but never puts in enough “zing” when she jumps up on the bathroom shelving to get both her head and her big badonkadonk to her destination. That’s when you hear her wildly scrabbling and scratching for footing. It’s hilarious!)
I’m okay with being a klutz. I laugh as heartily at myself as Michael laughs at me. If you can’t be Fred Astaire, for goodness sakes, make peace with being Charlie Chaplin.
That was the brilliance of Lucille Ball. If you look past the comedy, she was one of the most beautiful women to grace the large or small screen…but she didn’t sit around on her dignity, pouting for selfies all day long. She was willing to do absolutely anything to get a laugh including digging melted chocolate and grapes out of her ears. But she will never ever be forgotten!
Realize your strengths and then play to them, not against them.
This reminds me of an ex coworker of mine. Her job required one thing: clear, concise communication. Unfortunately, she wrote exactly as she talked: incoherently.
So for four years, I “edited” everything she wrote. No, that’s not quite true. About 99% of the time, I scrapped her words and started over again from scratch. It was that bad . She condescendingly (“okay-AY”) resented me for it but also appreciated it, demanding I hand over my completed projects for her to use, probably passing them off as her own. In return, the managers and franchisees bypassed her and came to me.
If she’d had a sense of humor, she’d have transitioned into a position where she played to her strengths instead of against them. But oh no!!! It was ego all the way buoyed up by stealing my work and working those office politics like a pro by telling our (beet red) male coworkers “No glove, no love, boys” and bedding the clients at conventions.
She got the promotions but she also became the laughingstock of the department. Unfortunately, she could never laugh at herself. She typified the kind of person I’m talking about. No humor, no humility, no common sense. Her star was on the ascendant but she stood on the shoulders of everyone else, not on her own skill, and they knew it! She was miserable, she made everyone else miserable, most of all, me!
What we need is a nation, and an entertainment industry, that can laugh at its faults and foibles. Enough of the stress, the terror, the mind control in our television shows and movies. Let’s bring back practical jokes. And slapstick. And humorous wordplay. We need a nation that can laugh at themselves as openly and heartily as they laugh at the next guy and vice versa.
It’s not a new concept. Some of the greatest writers in history have expressed it more eloquently than me.
Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice: “ For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”
Charles Dickens in A Christmas Carol: “For, the people who were shovelling away on the housetops were jovial and full of glee; calling out to one another from the parapets, and now and then exchanging a facetious snowball — better-natured missile far than many a wordy jest — laughing heartily if it went right and not less heartily if it went wrong.”
James Hilton in Goodbye Mr. Chips: “Give a boy a sense a humor and a sense of proportion and he’ll stand up to anything!”
If we had humor and humility, we’d be a happy, flexible, strong nation where narcissism just didn’t have a place. Our lives would be happier, our bodies healthier and our entertainment actually diverting instead of stress-on-a-stick.
Life could be really, really good..if only we’d let it.
Humor and Humility: Two Fell Blows to Narcissism