Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shameful Joy

Today's hero is a word, and not only it is a word it is a stinking German word. You know, one of those compound German words that are impossible to pronounce, and even harder to translate into any other language. I figured that a couple of months ago, a number made it to hero status, so why not let a word have the same distinction. The word that has climbed to the top of the hero ladder for today is, Schadenfreude, and of course it means a lot of different things depending on whom you ask. Lisa Simpson, one of my favourite oracles, describes it as shameful joy. It has been given other meanings as well such as "being glad I am not you," "taking pleasure in the suffering of others," and "people taking pleasure in your pain." I was recently accused (maybe that is too strong of a word, but oh well) of practicing schadenfreude by a colleague, and after they explained it to me in small words, I have to admit there might be some truth in that statement. Although of the three possible "definitions" above, I believe I follow the first one the most. I do not take undue pleasure in other people's pain. I have my own pain, thank you, and do not spent a lot of time dwelling on the pain of others. I am just that big of a selfish bastard. I also am not overly concerned with the suffering of others, after all I am no saint. The definition I prefer is the "being glad I am not you. We all know someone or someones that we can look to and say, with just a bit of smugness, that "thank fucking christ I am not them," or "man their life is really fucked up, and glad that I do not have to live it." I have had a couple of people that have served this purpose in my life, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them. Whenever I feel like my life is one big shit sandwich, I try to think of them, and recall their situation in order to make myself feel better. It usually works. Of course, the downside to this is that I am pretty certain that I serve this purpose for people in my life as well. I am sure one or more of my pals can smirk, and think "wow I am so glad that I am not GI." If you have the time you should Google the schadenfreude song from the Broadway musical "Avenue Q" and take a listen, it is priceless and does a wonder job of illustrating the point of the word. So, on a day where no person made it to hero status, we are left with the world schadenfreude as the best alternative, and maybe a little credit to the person who clued me in to exactly the kind of bastard I am, either way Schadenfreude, you are my hero of the day.

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