Sunday, July 12, 2009


Does it make you feel better if some smirking (once) rich guy gets 150 years in prison? Does it make you feel better if someone who has made you feel small, called you names or dismissed you has some grief? Does it make you feel better to see oppressors jailed or killed?

The word schadenfreude is from the German. It means damage joy. If you are flying high and people you think are a??holes are underwater, can that bring you joy? Even if you are just rocking along just the same does a bit of trouble coming the way of a perceived tormentor do your heart good?

I'm pretty sure I'm hiding and watching a number of people to see if they 'get what they deserve.' Or what I think they deserve. Sort of in the manner of those town folk in "The Magnificent Ambersons" waiting around to see if the obnoxious Georgy gets his 'comeuppance.'

But you know what? It doesn't give me joy to see the descent. It's more that instead of feeling bad for them I'm just not cheering them on. Mostly I get my pleasure from a casual indifference to their success or failure. A few less people on the planet I have to feel bad for if things don't go their way.

I just wish people wouldn't have given me a reason to not wish them well. That things had been different, that they had been honest and generous. That they had not placed themselves above me and others. That they had not set themselves up for the fall. I'd just rather folks all made me want to see them do well. But it would be exhausting, too.

Everyone will reach a nadir even if it is just the final extinguishing of life, that moment when we can no longer cling to this realm. (If you are going to some heaven, well, yeah that's the last revenge from my unkind thoughts I suppose if you've offended me.) How horrible to have people smiling at our inevitable defeat. I think there are probably a few people who will feel my ultimate demise will be a victory and who will take joy in dips in my life. Certainly there are people out there wishing me ill or, at least, not hoping for the best for me. But I don't think there are many. Most of us are indifferent to most of the rest of us. The Madoffs managed to alienate a lot of people in a big way but, yeah, they had to really work at it.

Anyway, much as I like the word, I don't think I have much use for damage joy. Like those that awaited George Amberson's comeuppance, it's all too easy to simply forget all about it. And find what joy we can make of our own existence.

[Photo today is a shop window reflection from New York City.]

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