Keep Laughing, Even When You’re Sad
A short story about being human in this world
I have a headache. One of those you just wake up with. The one that stays in the back of your head throughout the day. It almost feels like that annoying voice you’ve become too familiar with. So familiar with that you barely notice it. I guess that’s how we learn to cope with it. How we accept to live in pain.
I have to go to work. Where are my earphones? The sky’s gray today. Or maybe it’s just too early. It still smells like yesterday. People keep staring at me. Is there something wrong with me? I find myself normal, physically speaking, alien, in everything else.
Why do you find yourself to be strange?
When I was a child. I was very shy. I still am shy. So I supposed that I still am a child too. No matter what I tried, I never felt welcomed. Being unable to connect with others meant that I’d have to stay by myself. I had nothing else to do but to observe. Observe others. Observe the world. I found comfort by retracting. And from this cold and lonely place, I saw what others couldn’t, because they were too busy being distracted by superficialities.
People are running around this morning. Like every morning. I need some coffee. At least the owner of this place is nice. Her parents left her this cafe. She had to become an adult quickly. Great. The perfect spot. To people watch. Oh. They look even more depressed with all these brands that promised a godly experience. Are Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Apple all scammers?
Are you saying that feeling rejected by society was a good thing?
When you’re alone, and you realize that you can’t escape from this pain that slowly eats you from the inside — observation is how you cope with it. You pay more attention. You look for the devil because his face always shows up in the details. People are distracted by their senses. The chains of pleasure and pain turn our existence into a penitence. And the best part? We don’t even see it.
Do you enjoy your coffee? Hum, yeah, it’s great, thank you. You’ve been staring at people for half an hour, are you waiting for someone? Oh no, I just enjoy the view, I guess… Alright. I’ll be there in case you need anything. She has beautiful fingers. Hum, okay.
Despite all this, I still have a lot of affection for people. I don’t know. I’m conflicted. Sometimes I want to see the world explode and turn into ashes, because that’s what people deserve for having created such a rotting society. And sometimes. I just want everyone to be happy, to love, to appreciate the beauty of it all, just as it is.
Oh look. It’s that guy. I see him every day. We never spoke to each other and yet I feel sympathy for him. I don’t know. It’s the kind of weird thing that happens. You see people regularly, you recognize them and even if you never truly spoke to each other — you just feel like you know them.
He loves donuts. That’s a lot of sugar in this creamy coffee. A need for comfort? Maybe… Wait, he’s going back. I think I’ll follow him. Maybe it’ll confirm my suspicion. Let’s see. Oh. He’s working for them. They recently got rich. They’re known here. The husband acts like a tyrant and the wife, well, worse. Shhh… I want to listen.
Come on guys! I told you that they’ll be here soon. Check that the security is all good. You know how paranoid they are. They think every damn thing is a thief! Put yourself in position. Everything must be perfect otherwise you’ll lose me, and your jobs! Damn phone. H-h-h-hello, good morning mad-a-m. Of course, he-he-he, uhm, no mosquitos in this place madam. Oh no, I wouldn’t dare! My excuses madam. Yes, of course madam…
He’s sweating a lot all of the sudden. If he takes a shower on top of it, that’d be too much water being wasted. Not good for global warming. I always asked myself, why were some people so naturally good, and others, so cruel? The answer is in the question. Goodness is natural, cruelty — is manmade.
The wife had humble beginnings. Full of dreams. Beautiful. Unfortunately, her naivete was torn apart in the face of those experiences that crush you to your soul. After that. The only fuel that keeps you moving is revenge. And as the saying goes, you eat it cold. At least — not for her throat. Nights are drowned in alcohol. An attempt to repress it all. But anger is a stubborn beast. It spurts out like a volcano during daytime, as if resentful for having been denied its existence during the night. And of course, darkness consumes beauty. And no cosmetics can bring peace.
You seem to be very sure about what you say. You’re confident in your worldview.
I’ve observed a lot. I notice patterns. And the more I do, the sadder life looks like. We’re all hurting each other because deep inside, we’re hurt too. I try to remove as much emotionality as I can from my observation. That’s how I become wiser.
Are you implying that wisdom means coldness? Did you hear what I said? What are you staring at anyway? You’ve been looking through that window for a while now.
I’m just thinking about your question while looking at that cafe. I never understood how that girl went through so much, and yet, remains so joyous.
Of course madam! Guys! Get me those creepy homeless people out of the damn gates! Hey! Who’s that guy looking through there?! Fire him out of here! Now!
Shit. He spotted me. A stressful existence. Suspicion confirmed. I must run out of here. Even the nicest of people turn into the worst possible monsters when in fear. Just like this body that follows its instincts, running by itself. But the mind is thinking. Thinking about the animal hierarchy. It dominates our lives to this very day. Human beings that have the same potential as other human beings, wasting their lives for a few coins — and a lot of misery.
What do you mean by yes?
Wisdom is coldness. You must be cold to see what others can’t. Innocence is always torn apart by the harsh truths of life. Emotions and our so-called natural drives make us stupid, biased, prejudiced. It’s impossible to reason as long as we’re tied to these unconscious distorted ways of thinking. When I look at the world as it is right now. I don’t see happiness — I see misery! We can keep fooling ourselves. We can keep shopping, distract ourselves with TV shows, and pretend everything’s just fine. We can beg others not to leave us alone and call it love! We can try all we can to run away from the inherent loneliness of this world — we come alone, and die alone after all — but nothing will change the facts. Things are wrong. We are wrong. We just don’t want to look at it.
I have a headache. I have to go to work. Where are my earphones? People keep staring at me. Is there something wrong with me? People are running around this morning. Like every morning. I need some coffee. Great. The perfect spot. To people watch.
I find him cute. Really?! Everyone thinks he’s weird. He never talks to anyone. Always staring at people like a creep. You’re just being overly dramatical as always. Here, watch me. Hey! How’s your coffee today? Need anything else? Hum, no thank you. The coffee’s great. Alright, hum, so, I’ll be there as always. If you need anything else, just, let me know. Okay. See, I told you. He’s weird. Never mind.
Someone talked to me today. I mean, someone other than you.
Well, that’s good news.
Not that I prefer her to you.
Oh wow, and it’s a “her”.
But it won’t change a thing between us, you’ve always been the only person in my life.
I want you to be happy; now, shall we continue with our discussion?
Sure, I just wanted to share the news with you.
The last time we conversed, I noticed anger in your words. You found the world to be “wrong.” And you called that “wisdom.” Am I correct?
Yes, you are. Of course I’m angry. Do you think that I like to see people settle for a life of misery? No one will listen though. It’s for their own good that I sacrifice my life. That I live in the dark, in territories people never dare to cross. I owe this to the world. Seeing the facts requires you to be cold, realistic. And to bear that pain, to keep going despite its excruciating presence, is wisdom. I can’t allow myself any form of distraction. I’ve seen too much of humanity’s darkness to trust people. Everyone is nice when it suits their agenda. And anyone, even your closest relatives, can shoot you in the back. Believe me. I’ve seen it happen over and over again.
What if by overusing your mind, you closed your heart? And what if wisdom, is not about closing yourself to life but the actual opposite, opening yourself to it?
My heart? I don’t think I have one anymore.
Usually, I let you do the talking but now, just listen. What if you’ve become too sure about your worldview? What if you’ve built an identity out of it? What if your idealism about how things should be created a limited perspective, one that reveals its ‘childishness’ whenever you get angry?
Childish?! I’m angry because many things are wrong.
Sure, I don’t deny the fact that many things could indeed be labeled ‘wrong.’
Then how are you not angry? How can we see what’s happening in the world and not see the wrongness of it all? Every. Damn. Day. The news are filled with rape, wars, crimes of all sorts. Racism, division, social status. People keep living in fear. They’re burned out. We’re all drained from our vitality, instant by instant. We find more pleasure in the pain of our pursuit then in the prize. We’re addicted to suffering, to hurting each other. Isn’t this wrong? I can’t live with this. I can’t sleep with this.
The difference between you and me is that I see those unfortunate things happening but I don’t judge them. I see them as facts.
How? What do you mean?
I don’t have a preconceived view of the world, but you do, and you’re attached to it. You’ve been accustomed to noting all the wrongness of the world, so much so that without this wrongness, you’re no one anymore. When we have a view of how things should be, it collides with how things actually are. That’s when problems are created. Some people are ‘evil’; rape, world hunger, mass manipulation and all those ‘bad’ things do exist — I’ve accepted the fact of it, but you didn’t. You have a personal investment in them. Without your opinions, you’re no one. It’s all you’ve got. This wrongness is the only friend you found after everyone else left. A problem can only exist if we have a personal investment in a situation. When we don’t, it ceases to be a problem — it’s just a fact.
So, you’re saying that nothing’s wrong with the world?
How can you observe without biases, prejudices and emotionality — as you put it — if you come from a place of anger, from a drive to find wrongness?
Yesterday’s conversation got me confused. The sky’s blue today. But I don’t want to see people today. I just want to be in nature. I need to breathe to process some stuff. But I’m not sure about anything since yesterday. It’s a strange feeling. I don’t know whether or not I should be happy about it. Familiarity always creates attachment, even to discomfort. I wonder if prisoners feel this confused once freed.
The branches are dancing with the wind. The breeze is soothing. Those birds seem to have an interesting conversation. What are these people doing so deep in the forest? They’re in love, I can see it in how they look at each other. This look. I wonder how it feels. To be loved and wanted by someone else with so much intensity. Kids? When I grow up, I want to be a doctor! I want to be a soldier! I want to go to the Moon! Look! A butterfly! Let’s follow it! Yay!
That butterfly is so beautiful. How can such a vulnerable being feel so assertive. There’s something about those clouds too. What is it? Why do I feel entranced by them? They don’t move. Yet, majesty emanates out of them. The rays of the sun. Birds are chirping, kids are playing, the breeze is moving — yet, there is a sense of silence, one that surrounds it all. And it’s not void. It’s… It feels like it’s penetrating me, filling me. What is this?
Despite all the knowledge that I’m so proud of, I can’t explain this feeling. Could there be something that transcends my mind? What is it in me that knows how to respond to it? There is so much life around me, yet, it feels like everything has stopped moving. Could I have been wrong in my assumptions? Why do I feel like, paying my respects to this flower? What brings tears out of my eyes by simply looking at it? What is this feeling? I feel, filled.
Sometimes I want to see this world explode, because the people that complain about it are the very ones that put it in such a bad shape. Yet, sometimes too, I can’t help but feel tremendous love for all life. I guess that I chose to ignore this part of me because it made things more complicated. It helped me escape from this feeling. The feeling of not being able to connect with people. The loneliness. The hopelessness. The helplessness. Yet I can’t continue to live like this. I’m doing the same thing I’ve been blaming people for. They escape through shopping or parties. I escape through judgement, and arrogance. It doesn’t feel right. It’s not how life is supposed to be lived. My heart too has something to say. And I can’t stop it from expressing itself.
I’m sorry about yesterday. You needed a little push, that’s why I came at you so ‘directly’. I’m sorry about it. But it’s how life invites us to question our perspective. Some people quickly notice it and adjust themselves. Most people don’t, and that’s why most people are traumatized at some level. We often make the mistake of looking at the present through the lenses of the past. A certain event happens, and we assume that things will always behave the same way. So we keep painting life with expectations. We do this because we crave a sense of security. We believe that through assumptions, we won’t be surprised, that we’ll always be safe. What we don’t realize in living this way is that we put ourselves in a tough spot. No matter what our statistics are, the events that changed the world throughout our history have always taken us by surprise.
I tried to run away from my fears. How interesting. I didn’t want to feel rejected anymore. So I developed my mind, I turned it into a refined piece of machinery that analyzes with such prowess — all of this — just to avoid pain. If I believe that I’m so knowledgeable because I have a library of past observations. Then I’m in for a big surprise. This thing we call life, it’s alive. The butterfly is alive. The clouds are alive. These kids were alive. We say something is alive when it moves, and we say it’s dead, when it doesn’t. Life is movement. Life can’t be seen through the lenses of the past, of what’s dead. No, I can’t know. How could I have been so sure about my worldview when it was completely based on the past, on my loneliness, on my anger, on my fears about being rejected? How could I have felt so ‘superior’ to others when I was doing the same thing as them? How could I have been so logical when I was so biased in the first place?
You couldn’t. The world is miserable. Not because it doesn’t know enough but because it knows too much. And because it takes great pride in accumulating so much. People’s heads have become so heavy that their spines are bending. I hardly come across someone with a straight back nowadays. Yet, I don’t see things as being wrong. I respect them as having their own rights — some people call it ‘free will’, and we’re all given this same gift of choice.
I now realize that… With all this gymnastic, I’ve tried to push my pain away. Through my mental busyness, I tried to escape from my feelings. And living this way, I completely misinterpreted everything. I now realize that I never knew anything. I just hid under complex observations. I didn’t want to confront all this pain. And now that nothing holds it back, it wants to come out. It’s here. I can feel it. What should I do with it? Why do I want to cry? I can’t hold it back. I just wanted to be loved. I just wanted to play with you all. Everyone else was so busy. I just wanted to be part of the group, to be a valued team member. I just wanted to belong, to be one of those cool kids I’ve been watching from my window for so long. I didn’t try to steal the girl. I was just affectionate. With her, with you all, with those damn birds. I wasn’t stupid. I just loved to smile. All the time. I wasn’t a lunatic or a weirdo. I just loved Nature. I loved to stare at the stars, to talk to the Moon and to imagine that I was in love.
It’s okay, let your tears come out. Allow yourself to feel it completely.
I promise… I just had good intentions…
I’m here for you, you were never alone, I’ll always be here for you. Let it out. It’s fine. I’m here. That’s how we grow up.
Would you like to hear the latest ‘breaking news’?
Life is not easy. Yes, I just said that. We all have fears. We feel vulnerable in an environment that has not always been safe. We carry so much trauma from our ancestors to this very day. We fear death. We believe that by clinging to what we have, that by accumulating what’s scarce — that somehow, we’ll extend our lives. This very behavior makes us take our past too seriously. We keep carrying what is dead with us and it becomes a burden to our existence. No. Wisdom is not closing ourselves. Wisdom is opening ourselves. And if we can understand this, we overcome death.
We don’t fear death as a physical thing. What we fear is the end of our past. We’re attached to it. Through attachments we believe that we make our lives longer. But this is not the case. Actually, we make them shorter. By holding on to what is no more, so much energy is wasted, and our health is compromised. That’s why we’re all sick today.
Wisdom is realizing that life is too big to be contained in our little worldviews, and so we can’t boss it around. Wisdom is the courage to keep going despite the losses, the pain, the rejections, the fears. Wisdom is keeping our hearts opened no matter what happens to us. Wisdom is humbleness, enough humbleness to keep going, and learning despite having our fixed worldviews being completely destroyed by life, in all its truth.
If overcoming death seems like a superhuman task — it’s because it is. Only through wisdom do we understand love, and become a contributing force to the harmony of life. Wisdom is innocence. It’s feeling vulnerable, and owning it, just like a flower does. Or a butterfly.
I don’t have a headache. I have to go to work. Where are my earphones? People are running around this morning. Like every morning. Hello ladies. I’d like to have two cups of coffee. Oh, he looks different today. You’re right, he looks less weird and more, cool. I can’t believe what I just heard — you, of all people, are saying this? Here’s your cup of coffee. Thanks, where’s yours? Hum, sorry? I ordered two cups of coffee because I thought you’d need a break from that annoying waitress of yours?
You look different today. When you come each morning, I feel a lot of sadness in you but now, it’s different. It’s because I met you. Oh that’s sweet but I don’t think it’s just that. Why wouldn’t it be? You’re beautiful. Beauty always makes me feel great. Oh, you’re going to make me blush, you know how to talk after all. Anyhow, so, obviously I do coffee. But what about you? Are you an actor of some sorts? Sorry, what? It’s just… Sometimes I see you through your window, and you talk by yourself, as if you’re rehearsing a scene or something. I’ve got some connections, I could help!
It’s true that my window is very close, and you can actually see the whole room from here. Talking alone uh? It’s true that you never had a name. And that you’ve always talked like me. Well, at least you always had more class than I did. Hahaha. Have I said something funny? HAHA-HAHAHAHA. Good God! Why is that guy laughing so loudly. Is he trying too hard to impress the girl? Uhm, have I said something funny? No you didn’t. Sorry, I just remembered that I forgot to practice my laughing this morning. Yes, I am an actor. At least an aspiring one. I create movies in my mind and I practice as much as I can. I even created an imaginary, but very supportive friend for this matter. Well, even if our conversations feel more like it’s the same person talking. Really? That’s too cute! And what’s his name?