Ten Random Reasons Why Life is Freakin’ Awesome
Back in 2010, I was a couple of months into writing a weekly column for a college humour-type website. It was my first gig, I was hours away from deadline, and I was completely out of ideas. I was panicking about what the hell to write about, when I thought about how many ‘top ten’, ‘ten reasons why’ or ‘list of ten’ type clickbait-y articles that had caught my interest lately. What the hell, I thought, it’s 4am and I need to post something. So I joined the list of internet hacks and wrote a ’10 list’ of my own. I don’t remember what it was about now. But, I do remember waking up the next day, full of fear and anxiety, expecting my editor to email me back to tell me that this assured him that I was the fraud he always knew I was, that the post was used toiled paper and that he was done with me. I was sure of it. Instead, 24 hours later I got this email back from him.
“LOVED the top 10 list. The most hits any of your shit has gotten by far. People love lists. That’s what gets the most clicks from anyone. Especially when it’s a list of ten. People fucking love lists of ten! They’re like sheep who can’t stop themselves from clicking. Write me more lists.”
I swear to god, that’s the first substantive (and perhaps most insightful?) advice I’ve ever gotten from an editor. Writing lists still makes me feel like a hack. And I’ve discovered that, according to studies, we identify most strongly with lists of ten because thats how many fingers (and toes) we have. It’s why it’s a number we understand so readily, why we’ve designed our entire system of counting around it and why it’s so satisfying whenever things round out to a whole number of ten. We’re still cave people, and our internet clicks reflect that better than anything else.
And so, without further ado, here’s my list of ten random reasons why life is awesome. It’ll be a recurring gimmick, and I hope that you sheep enjoy it.
Ten Random Reasons Why Life Is Freakin’ Awesome
1. Do you know what there isn’t nearly enough of anymore? Saxophone Solos! Where have they gone? Who decided that we were done with saxophone solos? I was certainly not consulted. Keep your guitar solo, tell the vocalist that they don’t need any more damn attention, and while I’m here for the drum solo, there is nothing as cool as when someone knocks a badass saxophone solo out of the park. It’s peak cool. A Love Supreme, Born to Run, Careless Whisper, Hall & Oates Maneater and Dave Matthews Band! Spandau Ballet is super lame, but the sax solo at 2:58 of ‘True’ is dope as hell! Phil Collins wouldn’t dare put out an album without a bomb sax solo on or throughout the whole damn thing. And do you know who loves Phil Collins? Everyone with two ears and a heart, that’s who.
Have you seen the movie St. Elmo’s Fire? Hopefully the answer is either “no”, or, “not since the 80’s”, because Jesus, that thing has not aged well. But the point is that when it came out in 1985 it was supposed to be the biggest thing since ever. It had all the hottest coming of age brat pack stars during the peak of coming of age 80s movies. It starred Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, that guy from The Breakfast club, the guy from Pretty in Pink, that other guy from The Breakfast Club and the girl from The Breakfast Club that wasn’t Molly Ringwald. The plot of the movie is all over the place as it tries (poorly) to follow a group of friends as their lives move on, but mostly fall apart. As much as there is a star of this celestial vessel hurtling in a death spiral through Earth’s atmosphere of a movie as there is, it’s Rob Lowe. The butchers responsible for making this flick knew as much, and their way of making it clear that Rob Lowe is ‘cooler’ than the rest of the characters in the movie, what makes him special, is that he’s a saxophone player who used to kill it on stage back at the Georgetown bar where they went to school. That alone makes him like a local kind of rock star (presumably, looking like Rob Lowe is also helpful with this). The movie accomplishes literally nothing that it sets out to accomplish, narratively, practically or artistically. But, what it does unintentionally demonstrate for posterity’s sake is that 1985 thought that being a Saxophone player for a band with regular local gigs was the epitome of cool. Seven years later Slick Willy Clinton and his Sax played a mean number on Arsenio that helped carry him to the White House, so maybe St. Elmo’s Fire got that one thing right.
The 80’s got almost every conceivable thing laughably wrong about what was cool. Do you know what they got better than every decade since, though? That saxophone solos are freaking cool as hell. More of these, please!
2. Cheese. If you’re old enough to know how to read, then you assuredly already know that it’s bright out during the day, dark out at night, presumably you know how to tie your shoes, that you have to breath to survive and that cheese is fucking delicious. You know, the absolute basics of life.
Here’s the best way I can think of to explain to you just how incredible cheese is. Do you know that saying about how there’s two things you never want to see how they’re made: bills and sausages? Well that’s true, and you can throw cheese onto that list. Cheese starts out as milk that’s come from another animal, intended by nature simply to feed that mother’s calf from it’s weird mass of saggy, hanging udders (which isn’t to say that every Mother isn’t beautiful). We then collect that milk — and by the way, it seems worth mentioning that human beings are the only species on the planet to drink milk outside of infancy, or drink the milk of another species at all. I don’t have something I’m driving towards on this point; it just seems weird. In any case, we collect the milk, add active bacterial cultures to it, and then let it sit (traditionally in the emptied out stomach of another animal that we’d killed, skinned and removed it’s organs to use as bags) to ferment and coagulate into a hardened product that we wrap in plastic, ship out and then melt on simple carbohydrates in order to eat. Is that super weird and kind of disgusting? Yes. But do I care in the slightest? Hell no! It doesn’t stop me for a second from wanting to fill a giant swimming pool full of cheese, Ducktale’s Uncle Scrooge style, dive into it and then eat my way out. If you asked me if I would rather lose a finger or never eat cheese again, I would ask you which finger. Cheese is the physical embodiment of joy, and you can eat it. No matter what else, cheese is always worth waking up for.
3. Back Rubs. I would also accept Back Scratches, Neck Rubs, and Massages. None of us get enough of these. You can tell how great these are by the fact that when someone gets a back rub, especially when they really need it, their eyes roll back into their head in pure contentment. You know what I’m talking about. Your whole body relaxes. You forget where you are and, just for a second, let go of that subconscious hundred and fifty pound bag of anxiety you’ve been carrying on your shoulders. You feel great. At this point your body will release an involuntary sound that ranges somewhere on the scale between a low, groaning “mmmuuuughhh” sound of deep relaxation to a regrettably loud moan that falls somewhere between a mating call and the sound of sexual climax and leaves your friends, family or surrounding co-workers feeling deeply uncomfortable for an unfortunate amount of time.
Want to know how powerful back rubs are? Humanity has used them to tame and domesticate two entire species of animals. We’ve established dominion over dogs and cats primarily through the exchange of back, head and belly rubs and scratches. That’s it. Sure, we feed and shelter them. But they can figure that shit out pretty well on their own if need be. You know what they can’t do? Give themselves comforting under the chin scratches and belly rubs. Thousands of years of a symbiotic inter-species relationship that has brought safety, sustenance, security, joy and emotional interdependence where once we all struggled just to survive in the wilderness. All because of back rubs. Give someone a back rub. Treat yourself to a massage. You’ll quickly understand why dogs agree to sit when they’re told to.
4. Dad Jokes. We’re talking puns, groaners, one-liners and cheesy play-on-words. All dad jokes are bad. They’re downright awful. However, they’re also hilarious and perfect and fun. Allow me to provide an example. Ahem:
Why couldn’t the lifeguard save the hippy from drowning?
Because he was too far out, man.
You’re welcome. Now, there are 3 ways to be affected by a good, bad Dad joke.
1) You think they’re hilarious — because they are — and because life can be terrible and cruel and it’s more fun to laugh at things and find joy in the world.
2) Your enjoyment of Dad jokes is the eye-rolls, anger, frustration and “I hate you’s” of your disappointed audience. Schadenfreude, the Germans call it: please derived from someone else’s misfortune. It doesn’t matter that they don’t like your joke. In fact, that’s OK; maybe even better. You feel the anger and hate flowing through them and you feed off that shit like Emperor Palpatine.
3) You fucking hate Dad jokes because you think they’re stupid and lame and you’d rather be Oscar the Grouch dwelling on the trash in your can than experience the simple joy of laughter. To these people I say thank you, and I also say to you that just because you think Dad jokes are trash, doesn’t mean that they can’t do great things. After all, it’s trash can, not trash cannot… I really enjoyed knowing that you people who hate Dad jokes would be rolling your eyes in annoyance while reading that last line. Thanks again for that. You guys are playing an important role here for the rest of us and y’all are awesome for that.
5. Chris Pratt. He’s handsome, he’s hilarious, he’s somehow a badass AND adorable AND relatable AND charismatic AND kind. He is an A-lister, the Guardian of the Galaxy Starlord and the loveable, chubby idiot Andy Dwyer (aka Burt Macklin, FBI). Chris Pratt is like the perfect imagined version of who we wish we could be and who we want to just be buds with that somehow still seems conceivable (it isn’t, at all, but still). I’ll believe you if you try to tell me that you’re not in love with Chris Pratt. I’ll have my doubts that you’re telling the truth and I’ll have some concerns about you as a person, but I’ll believe you. But if you want to try and tell me that you straight up don’t like him and don’t want to hang out with him so he can make your life brighter? Nah. You’re either lying or a sociopath who can’t relate to human emotions or know joy and if you’re not a murderer already then it’s only a matter of time.
7. Otters. Otters are just like children, except Otters are better, because every single one of them is cute and none of them can speak.
8. Slam-Dunks. Slam-dunks are the most entertaining, impressive, emotional and incredible singular moment in sports. Home runs are amazing, but they’re a small collection of moments. Goals in hockey or soccer are built-up to and sometimes random. A dunk might come out of nowhere, but it is never random. It is a considered, high-flying act of declarative awesomeness. A dunk is at once graceful and destructive, beautiful and horrific. It is one person ascending up towards the heavens, and then hurling a ball down to cast their opponent into the depths of hell.
Most sports are accessible to all of us. Practice hard enough and you can do anything at a high level. Dunking is an exception. You have to be either freakishly large, explosively athletic or usually both in order to jump up high enough to slam a ball down through a hoop that is 10 feet off the ground. And lets be clear, you must slam it. Dunks are more than just placing a ball through a hoop; they require attitude and force. Setting the ball into the basket gently or getting just barely high enough to let go of the ball into the basket while just touching the rim doesn’t count. Those are just lies masquerading as made shots.
Nothing makes 17,000 people suddenly lose their collective minds like when somebody comes out of nowhere and dunks on some poor fool. Everyone jumps out of their seats, screams, laughs, recoil in horror or stare frozen, mouth agape. There is something about seeing a powerful dunk that makes you need to suddenly start running back and forth in directions you don’t understand, should you have the room to do so.
The slam-dunk is the most civilized and widely accepted form of murder that we have. Sure, nobody literally dies from a dunk (Brandon Knight and Frederic Weis are exceptions. I don’t care what evidence to the contrary that you try and show me, they’re both dead) but forcefully dunking on your defender destroys a part of them, posting the broken horecrux that was their body to be displayed on Youtube for the rest of time.
My older cousin Brent taught me everything I needed to know about basketball back when I was 8 years old as we were shooting against the hoop on the side of a barn. “Never get dunked on,” Brent told me. He was right. I knew from my earliest introduction to basketball that there was no coming back from getting dunked on, that it was a spiritual death.
So it was that I remember, maybe a year later, I was at my friend Bobby’s house and we were taking turns pretending to be Michael Jordan with a mini ball on his 5 foot tall Fisher Price rim. We started playing one-on-one when all of a sudden Bobby tried to rise up and dunk on me. Nuh-uh. You can’t let that happen. Brent had taught me well, and I fouled him hard to the ground. You don’t dunk on me. Get that garbage out of here!
Naturally Bobby ran to the other room and whined about the foul to the ref who, being his Mother, unfairly awarded ‘soft’ Bobby the home court whistle. I was assessed a flagrant foul, and the ref suggested that maybe it was time for me to go home. I suppose that must have been the *first time I was ever ejected from a game. But I didn’t get punked — there was no chance I was letting Soft Bobby put me on a poster.
If I ever somehow happened upon a magic lamp wherein it’s Genie would grant me just one wish, while I would like to say that I would use it for something pure and good to better humanity like putting an end famine, reversing climate change, stopping people from chewing with their mouth open or curing cancer, I know damn well that before I could think about it or stop myself I would immediately blurt out, “I want to be able to dunk really hard.” Humanity’s one chance at salvation would be lost to my impulsive vanity. Don’t trust me with magical wishes, guys. And for god’s sake, don’t get dunked on.
9. Geniuses. I should be more clear on this. I’m not talking about nuclear physicists or Nobel Laureates here. I’m talking about the Geniuses who have taken donuts from simple cakes that we somehow convinced ourselves was reasonable breakfast food, to the next level, world-altering pastry innovations we have today. The modern Wright Brothers who looked at the plain apple fritter we’d been eating for decades and thought, “what if we filled a donut with apple pie filling, topped it in a brown sugar Grenache, then crumbled up bits of a classic glazed donut and sprinkled them on top of that?”
We built skyscrapers and split the atom and journeyed into the great beyond of space to touch the face of the moon with our feet and send satellites beyond the reaches of our solar system, carrying a message of greeting and human achievement into the infinite forever of the universe. But we’ve only just started putting bacon on top of donuts. We’ve been stumbling around in the dark.
We need to recognize these fantastic works of genius that are dragging us out of the dark ages and into this brave new delicious world. I’m talking about the person who looked at a croissant and thought to themselves, “these are delicious, but what if we fried them and then glazed them in sugar like a donut?” That is brilliance. The world thanks you, Cronut person; take your place in history with Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Leonardo di Vinci and the rest.
I don’t know what I possibly did to deserve it, but I recently had a freshly baked dark chocolate and espresso donut with maple filling. Already that’s too perfect to even exist, right? That’s what I thought too, and then the Picasso behind the counter infused it with a shot of Baileys. Divine light burned a hole through the bakery’s ceiling to shine down upon it. It was like baptizing my mouth in ecstasy. For a moment, the world was perfect. For that moment there was no greed and no hunger, just a brotherhood of man sharing the world together. This is moment, and this donut is what John Lennon had been trying to tell us about. Like a prophecy. Afterwards, all I could think was that someone had this idea. Some wonderful stranger stared into the void and plucked this genius out of nothingness. Now they gift this perfect moment to regular shlubs like you and I, whether we deserve it or not. They are the real heroes out there, and I salute them.
Genius Donut Innovators
10. Rooting For People That You Care About To Succeed.
So here’s the thing. Overwhelming positivity and thinking completely outside of myself have not traditionally been my strongest of suits. When it comes to those two particular things, it was not so long ago that when the people who knew me best would have casually described the likelihood of my having accomplished either of those two tasks as falling somewhere between “probably not very good,” to “Hahaha, no.” Friends can be mean. But the joke is on those fools, because I did it! I mean, they were right at the time (Hindsight will almost always honestly inform you that the previous version of you sucked), but still. If I am capable of growth, then trust me, so are you.
So, let’s talk about Mudita. “Mudita,” what the hell is this gibberish? Well shucks, I’m glad you asked. See, the Germans are much better at words than us. They just are. In the English language, even the most complex of words requires an entire sentence of supporting cast around it in order to make any sense. None of our words are franchise players. The Germans may have lost the 20th century, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t win out on words. They figured out how to pack deep, complex meanings that span the entirety of a run-on English language sentence into one single word. Kopfkino, for example, means, ‘the act of playing out an entire scenario in your mind. Literally, head cinema.’ Backpfeifengesicht is a simple noun that describes ‘a face that deserves to be punched’. We all know exactly what Backpfeifengesicht means, although to be fair, in English we just usually call these faces ‘Sean’ or ‘fuckin’ Todd.’
In any case, the German word ‘Mudita’ means ‘deriving joy from other’s joy: vicarious happiness. Sweet, isn’t it? If you don’t understand, then I feel sorry for you. You don’t get it — you don’t know yet. Because the thing is, life isn’t about you. You don’t matter. Like, at all. There are 7.6 billion people *currently alive, and the Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years now. And yet the most impressive thing you’ve done with your life is finish a sociology undergraduate degree, bring a side dish to a large family dinner that went over really well or finally figure out your bangs. Great for you, but taking the broader context of humanity and our planet into mind, you’re not exactly special, are you (as life changing as that recipe that you got from a facebook video ad might have been)?
Let’s start with an example of mudita. A couple of years ago, I left home on an 11-week trip. When I got back, on my first night home, a friend of mine started updating me on everything that I’d missed over the last few months. At some point he casually mentioned that one of my close friends had started dating some girl when I was gone. I happened to know that this ‘some girl’ was the girl who worked at a certain store that I’d known this close friend had had a crush on for a long time. When I was gone, he had gotten the courage to talk to her, then ask her out, at which point she’d said yes, and now they were dating. Amazing! I immediately sprang out of my seat in celebration upon hearing this news. I had to find him! Conveniently, he was only about 40 feet away at the time. I ran over to this friend and high-fived him repeatedly without explanation until he started smiling with a level of proud embarrassment that told me he knew why I was high-fiving him. I was so happy for my dude! He shot his shot, bet on himself, put himself out there and it worked out! I would have been proud of him if all he had of done was try. But that he took something that he’d been thinking about forever, put it into action and then some other person appreciated that thing, reciprocated it and made it a real thing filled me with the most genuine kind of joy. It made it seem like life might just work out. And that even if it didn’t ever totally work out for you, that if it at least worked out for the people you cared about most from time to time, then that might be enough. That’s mudita.
The next time I remember feeling a joy that pure and selfless was when I first saw the video of Richard Spencer getting punched in the face. See, Richard Spencer is one of the so-called ‘alt-right’ leaders who supports Trump and organizes the tiki-torch white nationalist rallies of hate. ‘Alt-right’ is this weird re-branding attempt by a certain group of people that we previously just called ‘nazis’. When I call someone a nazi, you don’t need me to explain who they are or what they’re about, right? You just understand that they’re awful and evil and it’s beyond troubling that there are people in our world today that not just identify with but try to rally around their cause, right? Cool.
So you follow me when, in case you missed it, I tell you about how at Trump’s inauguration, some random dude hero ran up and PUNCHED THIS JABRONI IN THE FACE while he was spouting his racist white power bullshit. It was fucking incredible! I have watched this video somewhere between 100 and I will never stop watching this video on repeat amount of times. Because isn’t that the most pure version of deriving joy from someone else’s joy? <Andrew stops. He thinks about this for a moment. He returns to the stream of consciousness of his blog> Ok, so I thought about this for a second, and I realize that I might have gotten this wrong. There might be something that’s better than mudita. Well, there’s something that’s at least every bit as damn good as it. And that’s schadenfreude.
Schadenfreude is another one of those fun German words, and it means ‘the pleasure derived by another person’s misfortune.’ The sheer popularity of fail videos, drunkpeopledoingthings, Americas’s funniest home videos before it and essentially two thirds of YouTube tells me that I don’t have to explain this any further to you; you get it. Technically speaking, yes, schadenfreude is literally the exact opposite of mudita. BUT, I would argue, that nazi’s getting punched in the face is a specific exception. My argument is that Nazis like Richard Spencer getting punched in the face IS a positive thing that I’m rooting for. There is a blurred line between when good things happen to good people that deserve them and when bad things happen to nazis. Because they’re the same thing, especially when they’re caught on video. This is literally the best example of a victimless crime that I can possibly think of. Every single nazi who is in the active of being a fucking nazi deserves to get punched in the fucking face. That’s just a fact. Deserving to get punched as hard as someone can punch you in the centre of your stupid fucking face is an implicit part of nazidom. When you choose to look at the historical reality and human cost of nazism, with the benefit of information and the opportunity of empathy and, as an adult, you’re still like, “yeah, you know what, not only am I down with all this heinous and hateful shit, but I’m fine with people knowing it, and gimme a couple tiki torches so I can look that teensy bit more ridiculous while supporting this evil bile, bro” then you give all of us moral and literal license to punch you in the face. It’s the least that we can do. You guys get your stupid pepe the frog meme, we get to punch you in the face, every time you’re publicly a nazi. And you know what, that there are people out there who are willing to run up and smack a nazi in the face with their righteous fist makes me really happy. So maybe mudita and schadenfreude aren’t so far apart, at least when it comes to cheering for good things to happen to good people and punches to happen to the faces of Nazis.
Rooting for people that you care about to succeed/punching nazis in the face