"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." — Maya Angelou
In February of 2007 I was on tour with the experimental electronica band The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm as their opening act. I liked to think of myself as The Leg because I helped with a lot of the leg work carrying the band’s equipment from the tour van to the stage.
On our way through Pennsylvania we stopped for a show in Pittsburgh, and just before the show I went out to the tour van to get my suitcase and prepare for my set, but just as I got to the van these two thugs came up to me. I knew they right away that were thugs because they wasted no time in mugging me. After pushing me up against the van they politely told me:
“Stay cool! Give it up!”
And I do consider this a polite thing to say; after all, they could have said:
“Stay boring!” or “Stay a nerd!”
But no, they acknowledged that I’m a pretty cool guy, so as a gesture of my appreciation I considered giving them a tip, but as I was calculating the 15-20% tip in my mind it occurred to me that they were taking all my money anyway, so it really didn’t matter. It wasn’t until after they had already left that I realized I could have at least offered to give them the pin number to my bank card, but they were already way down the street and I would have had to run pretty fast to catch up with them, and at that point I just didn’t think it was worth the trouble. So I guess the lesson here is that if you’re going to offer compliments to people it’s best to not run off so quickly; they may want to repay the kindness.
In all seriousness, though, this is a true story. I really did get mugged while on tour in Pittsburgh, PA, however all those funny things I thought of didn’t occur to me until well after the fact. Think of it as a coping tool; as a way to come to terms with the absurdity of life and the selfishness of others by not taking ourselves so seriously and instead finding a way to laugh about it.
This notion of looking at the bright side of things was indwelled in me from a young age. As a child I would sometimes attend Sunday School with my cousin Rachel and one day the teachers assigned us the task of memorizing a bible verse, and the one I chose is perhaps most responsible for this perhaps unsettling ability to find the positive in seemingly every negative:
“A happy heart is like a good medicine, but a broken spirit drains your strength.” — Proverbs 17:22
Please don’t misinterpret what I’m suggesting here. I don’t mean to suggest that we should always walk around with smiles on our faces pretending that everything is fine and dandy even when everything isn’t fine and dandy, and I’m also not suggesting that we should find the joke in everything. Believe me, that’s gotten me in trouble too many times, so even though I can find the humor in nearly every situation that doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate to communicate that humor. What I am suggesting is that when we find ourselves in situations where stress is building up and things are getting too tense to handle, it may be a good idea to take a step back for a moment and remember that no one is going to make it out of this life alive so it’s of little use taking everything so seriously.
When all else fails, remember that it is often the case that Tragedy + Time = Humor. In your darkest of times, when all is bleak, remember that a happy heart is a good medicine, and also remember that sometimes the only way to get that medicine is through Time.
The Magic Word Humor provides us with the muse to find solace even while experiencing tragedy. As for me and the mugging experience, I’m just glad I now know the true meaning of the name “Pittsburgh Stealers.”
(You have to admit, to gain a pun like that
makes even a mugging a worthwhile experience!)
Have you been taking things too seriously lately? Sure, even comedy needs to be taken seriously by comedians, but that doesn’t mean we have to be so serious. What can you do today to live with more good humor?
Jonas Cain is an educator, facilitator, and coach, working to engage, empower, and encourage leaders and the people they serve to experience joy.