Monday, December 12, 2011

The Quiet Side of Comedy

Take a look at this kitty. This kitty looks happy to me. Maybe the photo was photoshopped. Maybe the kitty cried one day when it did not get milk or was not petted gently enough, but why focus on that? The purpose of this photo is to bring a smile to someone's face. 

Sometimes reaching inside ourselves to be kind and positive shouldn't be misjudged as superficiality. Positivity despite tragedy comes from a deeper, ingrained desire to celebrate life. 

We've all heard of the social masquerade whereby someone puts on a happy face when supposedly "deep down" they are sad. However, it is usually the saddest people who are the quickest to point fingers and shout, "Ah ha! I knew it! You're not that happy." 

Even if a heart has a Band-Aid, it's still a heart. 

In our exploration of the world, we naturally break down barriers in order to find hidden truths and deeper explanations. This is a good thing. However, even good intentions can cause us to lose sight of the fact that we perceive the world largely based on how we're feeling inside. 

If you believe someone is putting up a facade to hide pain, perhaps you should instead look in the mirror to see why you're focused on this in the first place. Just because someone laughs instead of cries, doesn't mean they are superficial. 

It has been said that many comedians conceal a deeper pain behind their comedy. So what. On days when we're not feeling well, who hasn't smiled out of kindness for the sake of another? 

In reality, what business is it of ours what people experience in their personal lives? It takes a lot of strength to lift yourself up by your bootstraps, despite your profession. Why push someone back down just because they've fallen before? 

The day my grandmother passed away, my heart split in two. I was consumed by sadness. We were told to go shopping a day later for a black outfit to wear to the funeral. Reluctantly, I did what I was told. I wanted to tell everyone I encountered how sad I was and how much I missed my my wonderful grandma. How my deeply my heart ached and how I thought I'd never smile again. But when I saw people, they smiled at me. They had no idea. It dawned on me then that they didn't need to know. My grief was my personal business. In a world bent on exposing everyone's privacy, should we just because we can?

When I arrived to the store, a very nice woman helped me look for a dress. She didn't ask me what it was for, she simply showed me a number of options and let me choose what was right for me. Even though we didn't discuss anything personal, there was a tacit understanding that it was a quiet time for me. She respected my privacy, and while I did not have the words at the time to voice my appreciation, it meant a lot to me. 

Interestingly enough, after leaving the store I ran into a friend of mine from school. She was elated that she had just been accepted to a prominent university. Her family couldn't afford to send her, but her own hard work and diligent effort had resulted in a full-scholarship. 

We hugged and laughed and smiled out of sheer delight! How could I do anything else? Here was my unassuming, hardworking, super smart friend who had just been given a chance to follow her dreams. 

For an instant, I felt better. I felt grateful to be alive. I was proud of my friend, happy for her happiness and good fortune, and relieved to take a much needed breath for myself. 

I'm sure there are many comedians in the world that hide tragedy and pain that they've experienced in their personal lives. I don't see that matters, and I don't see it as being fake. I see it as an exercise in maturity and kindness. I see it as a confirmation of our shared ability to rise up despite opposition, heartache and challenge. I see it and receive it as it is intended, as a gift. 

While I've only focused on the quiet side of comedy in this post, let me take one last moment of your time to acknowledge something more. 

Sometimes positivity isn't always about hiding pain. Sometimes positivity is just that - positivity. When life gives you an opportunity to laugh, take it. When someone offers you a smile, return the favor. Doing so will allow you to feel better inside while knowing that sometimes, just sometimes, we laugh because there's laughter in our hearts, even if someone forgot to set out the milk. 

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