The Humor in the Unknown

By: Esther Perez  |  August 22, 2021

By: Esther Perez, Opinions Editor

One thing that I believe is a byproduct of growing up and seeing beyond the glimmer of childhood, is realizing that there are no guarantees in life. One can never know what will happen from second to second, and that realization can paint the world in a very frightening way. Uncertainty is the foundation of most suffering. Most people were reported to prefer a definite and expected painful thing occurring to them, rather than the possibility of that same thing happening at an unknown time. There is no doubt that the pain of the unknown is valid, but that doesn’t mean we have to be a victim to these potentially crippling situations. 

When we think about what makes a joke funny, we could suggest the tone, timing, or context  But what really makes the punchline stick is the unexpected ending that no one saw coming. There’s a reason why the potency of a  joke decreases the more you hear it, no matter how identical the delivery is to that first time you heard it, as it is impossible to match the experience of hearing a joke for the first time, a second time. When you know what is coming,  the joke isn’t as funny anymore. While many situations, of course, require solemnity and seriousness, and Judaism certainly doesn’t glorify lightheadedness or foolish behavior during matters that warrant a serious attitude Sometimes the best coping mechanism for a situation that has absolutely no warning is to see the humor in it. When a person doesn’t have the preparation needed to maintain a  positive mindset to help them through the challenge and create new ways to adapt, we can try to make our instantaneous reaction by finding the funny within the unforeseen. 

Although this can come naturally to some people, many of us are not as adept at seeing past the initial hurt and surprise. The punchline is buried too far beneath the shock and numbness of the present situation. Sometimes we need to retrain ourselves not to take things too personally and to lighten ourselves by slightly removing ourselves from the intensity of the current situation. Part of finding something amusing is having the mental adaptability to see beyond the hurt and to acknowledge that great things can come in unexpected packages. Sometimes the situation calls for not taking ourselves too seriously. Being able to see the laughter in the sudden collapse of plans or expectations can be a healthy way to overcome disappointment. Embracing the twists and turns of life builds a mental resilience to the things in life that are unknown and have a high chance of things falling through. Like the old saying goes: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Instead of fighting against the currents of the things you can’t change, sometimes ride the wave and see where the situation takes you.

While this obviously cannot be expected for every situation- and as I mentioned, sometimes this approach may be inappropriate- most of our everyday inconveniences that get us so wound up can be released with a mental reset. Whether your mental reset is letting go of your baggage through humor or some other positive coping mechanism, I wish everyone a mentally healthy and wonderful start of the year!