All sorts of terrible things happen all the time. Kids are abused. People lose their jobs and have no means of support. They might be victims of violence, or all sorts of brutality. The world is full of racism and sexism and lots of other not-so-good-isms.
Sometimes, I find it difficult just reading the paper, when I just have sadness and violence thrown in my face. How on earth are we meant to respond to all of this? What is the decent, honest, human way to deal with the general awfulness of a lot of life?
A lot of people take the burden onto themselves. They become involved as activists, or join up with organisations that support people in need, or volunteer for all sorts of different services, often putting their own lives at risk. That’s great. I really admire people like that. But other people get overwhelmed with it all, or simply shut it out. Most of the time, I confess that’s me. I suspect it’s most of the rest of us as well.
In the end, the main strategy I have to engage with the general seriousness of the world is to write about it. But, you may say, isn’t my writing largely humorous? Am I not primarily just trying to get people to laugh? Well, yes I am, but there’s a bit more to it than that.
Humour is a big part of the way I deal with the seriousness of the world. I know, that seems to be a bit of a contradiction. How can you turn something serious into something funny? Isn’t that just trivialising the very real suffering of others, just to get a laugh?
Well, yes and no. I agree that there is a lot of humour that can be quite trivialising, and personally I’m totally not into making fun of anyone disadvantaged. But there are other types of humour as well. Humour that helps you to see things in a new way. Humour that gets you to reconsider the way you view the world, and your preconceptions and prejudices. Humour that is about understanding there’s only so much you can do, and putting on a brave face and getting on with things just the same.
To me, humour is a powerful thing. You can never be truly downtrodden if you’re able to laugh, no matter how painful that laughter may be. It can bring people together, and maybe, in some small way, it can change the world for the better.
Because it truly is a serious world we live in. Far too serious to ever take too seriously.
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