Saturday, September 24, 2011

Enjoy the Humor in the Catastrophe

Yet another of Aaron Scott's Two Leaf Clover cartoons, and the thoughts that spring to mind :). There's a certain "Far Side" glee to this particular panel, and I think it's quite funny, and at the same time, quite true to human nature. When we discover a particular fantastic foul-up, one that lasts in the psyche for "years", we tend to remember them years later with smiles.


An old phrase I remembered hearing as a teenager, and I've come back to it time and time again, is "Crisis + Time == Humor!" The context at the time was dating, something I was just becoming cognizant about. It may surprise many people to think that once upon a time I was an awkward and rather shy teenager. That doesn't really jibe with how people know me today (I have to remind them I spent ten years in the crucible of the San Francisco Bay Area music scene to help get from there to the person most people know me as today :) ).


Anyway, I had some spectacularly bad dates early in my experience, and each time I thought it was the end of the world. Given time, though, and a chance to look back, I realized that I was able to still be on friendly terms with most of the people I dated, and when thinking about the dates years later, I'd laugh about [fill in the blank] that made the date particularly memorable, usually in a cringe inducing way.

Testing often gives us these moments, where we often discover that for various reasons, we have set ourselves up for spectacularly bad results. We may not know when we start out that we are leading ourselves into a snake pit, or that we are about to open up a hornets' nest on ourselves, or that our best laid plans and ideas, heroic as they may be, have the potential to blow up in our faces. We live in a society that implicitly does not encourage mistakes. We learn from early in school that the only way to get an A is to not make any mistakes. Thus, mistakes are bad. Don't make mistakes! That's the message we get, and we dutifully do all we can to not make mistakes, and when we do, we are mortified and embarrassed and wish we could crawl under a rock and die. But what happens when we make mistakes, when we fail, when things blow up in our faces? Well, we learn! In fact, we learn better than we would had we made no mistakes at all. Oftentimes, making no mistakes has more to do with luck than with skill.  When we don't get a chance to come face to face with our mistakes, we don't get a chance to reflect on them and learn from them.

Yes, sometimes terrible, embarrassing, and painful situations can be powerfully educational. I'd dare say my best learning has come at the hands of getting the proverbial "body slam" from life. Those do a few things. They teach us  humility. They teach us perspective. They teach us about boundaries and about humanity. They're actually quite beautiful moments if we are willing to let ourselves actually embrace, an yes, enjoy the humor in the situations.
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