Saturday, April 6, 2013
As usual, I'm surrounded by drama. In my family, at work, pretty much everywhere I go. Generally, I can usually count on at least one fight going on between two people I know at any given time. I used to be caught up in the midst of all this fighting. God knows I was kicked out of two high schools for fighting. Life is inherently stressful. Shit happens, and people hurt us. So if I may, I'd like to share with you my solution to this most intractable and difficult of problems. Quite simply, when other people get you down, be amused.
In 2009 and early 2010 I was pretty much at rock bottom. My life was in completely shambles. I had absolutely nothing going for me besides my girlfriend, and even that was on the rocks. Almost no reason to get up in the morning except to turn the TV on and numb myself to the pain of daily existence. People sucked (they've always sucked, but when you're down and out and depressed they suck even more), minor irritations were major problems. Up until this point in my life I'd never understood the draw of reality TV. But when you feel like shit about yourself, and you think your life is shit, a four-hour block on TruTV every Thursday night watching people get pulled over for speeding, dumb criminals caught on camera, pregnant teenagers on MTV, and in general watching people who make very stupid decisions in life suffering for them becomes very attractive. Though perhaps my favorite show was on the now-defunct Discovery Health channel, called Code Blue. It followed the goings-on at a busy ER and trauma department in Savannah, Georgia, and all of the horrific, broken people, patients and doctors alike.
Just about the only remotely health and well-adjusted person featured on the show was the jolly and upbeat Dr. Tchotkis, the trauma director, a Jewish New Yorker who I liked because he had the same accent as me. Day in and day out he could shrug off absolutely horrific suffering he came across in his work, and as someone with more than his fair share of shit in life, this was a trait I found quite admirable. He was interviewed in one episode, in the midst of teaching a new resident physician, and he spoke the words that I've made into my life's motto: "It's hard at first, but as soon as you come to understand that everyone comes here to amuse you, you do fine."
Three and a half years later, no truer words have still ever been spoken. Here's how it works. I believe, deep down, that my primary purpose in life is to be amused. That other people exist to entertain me, that the world exists for my amusement, and I am meant to have fun. Fun does not have to mean drinking and partying, spending time at leisure. But in whatever I do, whomever I'm with, the number one priority is entertainment. Surprised? It's an attitude with a sharp learning curve, admittedly, but if you can keep at it for a few weeks, it soon becomes second nature. And then everything changes. The annoying guy in line ahead of you becomes tolerable. Passive-aggressive coworkers become funny. Bratty siblings and overbearing relatives are merely cheap sources of a quick laugh. You start to notice little things. Discarded wrappers on the sidewalk become jokes. Misplaced items funny stories.
Everyone and everything I ever come across is here to amuse me.
Some might find this unnerving. I never understood that. As if sweating the small stuff and being offended by inconsequential interpersonal conflict was a sign of psychopathy. Some people were just born with sticks up their butts. I've never been less stressed and bored so little. It makes waiting in line at the DMV interesting. Just listen to the conversations you overhear. 98% of everything is completely absurd if you let yourself see it for what it is. The modern 21st century Western lifestyle is completely arbitrary. If you're willing to see it that way, you see that it's quite ridiculous. All of it.
There are downsides, of course. Being constantly amused has nearly totally ruined television for me. It plays with your suspension of disbelief. It's like a long-term diet. Your palate changes. Reality shows, prime-time dramas and sitcoms, they're all junk food. Take in real nourishment (seriously, just walk down the health food aisle at the grocery store and take it all in. Read the copy on the labels. Look at the graphics. It's hilarious), and the Oreos and Chef Boyardee just seems so...bland and pedestrian. Which I suppose brings me back to the beginning of this whole journey. Ironic, isn't it, that television-watching presented me the seeds of its own destruction.
Ah, but it's so much more than that. You just lighten up, mellow out, live in such a better way. So when your passive-aggressive boss annoys you, be amused. Aggravating in-laws? Amused! Stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic? Take a look at the driver next to you. Amusing! Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to go stare at my aquarium for an hour and pretend to work. Very, very amusing.