Monday, February 3, 2014

If You're Not Happy and You Know It ...

One of the difficulties – if not the only difficulty – in resolving to post on this here blog daily is coming up with topics.

I suppose I could hash over the events of the day and look for patterns or anecdotes, but today was particularly dull. My highlights were taking out the garbage and making a sandwich for supper. Not much fodder there. (My schedule tomorrow is chock-a-block with events, including looking online for a plumber and a furnace guy. Will the excitement never cease?!)

But, just moments ago, Pidge made a remark about being sad. Not only about Philip Seymour Hoffman*, but Peyton Manning. Even as she said it, she noted the difference in degree of their situations. But I noted that everyone is sad about something.

I think that we live under the impression that the emotions we’re experiencing at any given moment are probably more intense than those of others. I’m neither saying that I think that we think our own emotions are stronger or more intense or important than those of others nor that we can’t empathize with the joys or sorrows of others, but I am saying that our perceptions of the emotional states of others will always be colored by our own personal sadness or happiness. While I don’t think we set out to competitively rate our emotional scales – “I am so much happier than that guy!” or “Her sorrow is nothing compared to my own” – that competitiveness does evidence itself, though; I mean, when I’m sad, and see someone who’s blissfully happy, I both envy them and think “What do they have to be so happy about? Don’t they know the world is a horrific place?” Conversely, when happy, if I see someone obviously glum (though not to the point of extreme emotional distress), I think “What’s their problem? Get over yourself,” or words to that effect. The personal will generally outweigh our better selves. (There are, of course, exceptions. When hearing of people who have undergone a tragedy – whether personal or weather- or geography-related – we can use our empathy to do what we can to lighten their burden – which I suppose could be interpreted as letting our own charitable [read “good”] instincts and moods take precedence over the sorrow of others. But probably not; that’s just being human. But still …)

My own sadnesses right now have less to do with celebrities or athletes. This whole not-having-a-job thing is wearing on me (anyone have any leads?) and a Facebook friend of mine is always posting things about their bullshit success that’s really pissing me off. Why this person should have apparent success through repetitive nonsense baffles and frustrates me. (So, maybe it’s not “sadness.”)

Anyway …

I’m suddenly reminded of the Four Humors that humans were thought to carry within us, and which governed our moods, from hopeful to angry to sad to calm. Any imbalance of the Humors (I refuse to spell it with an extra “u;” I’m no damn Brit or Canadian) – too much of one, not enough of another – will make us feel the emotions that extra humor inspires. And while I don’t believe that our bodies contain Humors, I do think that we all carry those emotions close to the surface at any one time, ready to come to the fore given the proper circumstances.

And while my sadness over a team losing a big game is legit to me, it may rank pretty low on your scale. (“He’s sad about that? Get a life!”) If you’re delighted over a particular movie, I can scratch my head and insist I wouldn’t see the same thing on a bet.

Mel Brooks once analyzed comedy by saying “If you fall down a manhole, that’s funny. If I have a hangnail, that’s a tragedy.” I’ve long said that humor is the most personal of things; that what one person finds funny will be bafflingly awful to another – and vice versa. But I want to amend that. Emotions in general are far more personal. Is the sense of humor an emotion? Probably in some sense. But the things that make us happy, sad, or indifferent are ours alone. They can live in close proximity with one another (by our being sad about more than one thing, major or minor, or by being sad about one thing while being delighted by another) by our own emotions will always outweigh those of others in that they’ll always color our perceptions of the needs and feelings of others.

So, to return to my original point, everyone is sad about something, just as they’re happy about something; it’s just the balance they’re in and the importance you attach to them that gives them weight.

(*Let me note that, in due time, I’m going to deal with my feelings about this Hoffman thing; I just want to give them some time and sort them out.)

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