Friday, October 29, 2010
The Benefits of Tragedy
"Fretting makes us important. Say you're an adult male and you're skipping down the street whistling "Last Train to Clarksville." People will call you a fool. But lean over to the person next to you on a subway and say, "How can you smile while innocents are dying in Tibet?" You'll acquire a reputation for great seriousness and also more room to sit down.
Tragedy is better than comedy for self-dramatization, as every teenager knows. Think how little attention we pay to a teen who's bustling around the house with a big smile on his face, greeting parents and siblings with cheery salutations. . . . Actually, we'd pay a lot of attention and rush him to the drug detox center, post haste. But you know what I mean. Would you rather star in Hamlet or Three's Company?
Being gloomy is easier than being cheerful. Anybody can say "I've got cancer" and get a rise out of a crowd. But how many of us can do five minutes of good stand-up comedy? And worrying is less work than doing something to fix the worry. This is especially true if we're careful to pick the biggest possible problems to worry about. Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes."
―P. J. O'Rourke, All the Trouble in the World