From Sad to Worse

The real issue with writing about sadness is to avoid making you feel sad while reading it. The best way to remedy this is by, at the moments in this blog where the mood drops the most, interjecting with a positive image to bring you back onto an even keel. Then we can continue to plumb the depths of misery together, safely.

Obviously the best way to write about an emotion is to put yourself in a position where you can understand it the best, which is why, in order to write about sadness, I’ve waited until 2am on a Saturday night after having just watched Lost in Translation for the first time. What a shame this blog isn’t about loneliness.

[Already time for our first positive image:
Imagine you’re a toddler riding around on a dog on your birthday, in a sunny garden, laughing and waving your arms, after having just learnt that you won the Academy Award for Cinematography, while naked women throw Haribo at you, flying around on jet packs. And it’s Saturday.]

A lot of the other emotions on this list seem to serve a very obvious purpose anthropologically; happiness is there to encourage us to do things that are good for us, by making us feel good when we do them, like eating, exercising, having sex, and for some reason,  watching a film about cars that transform into alien robots. Fear is there to protect us from danger, by making us averse to things that might cause us harm, like cars that transform into alien robots. And of course surprise is there to quickly prepare us for an unexpected event, like an event where five commercially successful movies get made about cars transforming into alien robots. While I’m sure there are other ways I could apply the other emotions to the Transformers franchise in a hilarious way, you can see what I’m getting at, although it seems less obvious what purpose sadness serves us, in terms of keeping us alive, or strengthening bonds between tribes etc.

After doing the most cursory research, it’s obvious that one of the reasons we display sadness is social; to demonstrate to others that we are in distress. This is probably the reason that feeling sad can have such a disgusting impact on a person’s face, distorting it into a wrinkled grimace of despair to communicate that a situation is less than satisfactory, and earmark it for the rest of the tribe. For example the tears that stream down your face when watching the overly emotive parts of the Britain’s Got Talent Final. Not because you sympathise with the plight of the contestants, but because you’re inexplicably watching Britain’s Got Talent, which would make anyone sad, because it’s shit.

It’s also there simply as a counterpoint to the way in which we use happiness, in that if we’re sad, we’re more motivated to do something to change our situation, in order to feel happy again. Unfortunately for me, I find that writing and performing is what makes me happy, but being happy in the first place actually makes me more inclined to want to do it. So if I’m feeling sad, I don’t want to be sitting here at two in the morning, trying to write something funny, because I know that in all likelihood the writing will reflect my negative mood too much.

[Another positive image? Sure:
Picture yourself flying above the clouds, as fast as you like, punching those annoying seagulls in the head so they explode. Suddenly, that person you really used to fancy in sixth form, but was too cool to speak to you, flies up next to you, and says something sexy like: “let’s fly to my bedroom and have some sex.” You smile – finally.
You punch them in the head and they explode, teaching them a valuable lesson about wasting your time.
Back to the sadness.]

If only the best way of turning my mood around was by doing what I usually do when I’m at my saddest, such as watching endless hours of sitcoms I’m only half invested in, or walking to the big Asda on my own to buy a single can of Rubicon. But no, sadly my brain likes to place my happiness in a delightfully ironic Catch-22, where I can only achieve happiness by performing a task that requires me to be happy to begin with. It’s almost as if blogging and stand-up comedy are of no evolutionary advantage to me or anyone else, and that anyone who feels joy from something so abstract and useless to human advancement, is basically a mutant. And not in the cool X-Men way, but in the slightly less practical, Chernobyl way.

Perhaps happiness is more sustainable if it’s earned, and escaping sadness through hard work towards a personal goal of some sort seems to be the best way of doing it, for me at least. But the vicious circle of lack of motivation leading to less productivity in an endless feedback loop can only be broken by recognising it, and taking a moment to just think of a funny tweet, or pick up your guitar for the first time in ages, or picture a happy image, like:

[All of your best friends run around you in a circle, telling you why they like you so much, and explaining why all of your insecurities are unfounded and silly. They then run faster and faster, gradually creating a time vortex which you travel through into the past. You arrive in the early twentieth century, and place a large deposit of money (which you took from your friends in preparation) into a high interest savings account. You travel back to the present, and learn the accumulated interest has made you disgustingly wealthy. You buy better looking, less sycophantic friends, and a swimming pool.]

Next time on the Bandwagon – If you could run as fast as the rotation of the Earth, so that relative to the Earth’s axis, you’re not moving at all – what good would that do?

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Less is Amour

I’ve written about happiness, and about fear, so I thought it might be nice to continue to write about emotions. Apparently there are seven basic emotions that humans feel, only some of which correspond to Snow White’s Seven Dwarves, even though I thought that was the whole point – explaining to children that women need an entire house full of men to learn to control their emotions. So this week I’ve decided to write about love, something which I know nothing about because I’m not sure I believe it exists.
WHOA what? There’s your opening gambit guys, that’ll pull you right in, whether through intrigue or outrage.

First of all, love isn’t one of the seven basic emotions that humans feel, so already I’ve totally ignored my initial premise for writing this. But love is the most talked about emotion, and is arguably the catalyst for many great works of art, so I thought it time to add this blog to that list, somewhere in between the Taj Mahal and Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass. Saying I don’t think it exists at all might be a stretch, but I don’t think it’s an objective emotion in the same way that Joy or Fear or Anger is, even though it’s portrayed in the media as something perfect and consistently meaningful to everyone, like pancakes. Just the fact that you can use the same word to describe your feelings towards a devoted spouse of fifty years and a particularly engaging episode of Bargain Hunt shows how diluted a concept it has become. You could reasonably say ‘I love you’ to a person and a pair of shoes with exactly the same inflection, and no-one would bat an eyelid, unless you were hoping that both times you’d get the same response. It just seems odd how we’re expected to love a person unconditionally, until one of you dies, even if they have some unforgivable flaws like not being able to wink or drinking skimmed milk instead of semi-skimmed like everyone else. I suppose I believe love exists, but not in the same way for everyone, and the more you try to define it, the more you’re limiting yourself in what you think is supposed to make you happy.

I think a fair comparison would be pornography. Romantic movies give an unrealistic expectation of love with their unnaturally perfect proposals and portrayal of love overcoming all the odds, just how pornography gives an unrealistic expectation of sex with their unnaturally perfect bodies and lovers cumming over each other, instead of into a condom as God intended. And without wanting to get into too sexist or stereotypical territory, just as internet-addled young boys won’t be satisfied unless their partners behave like porn actors, young rom-com-addled women won’t be satisfied with a proclamation of love unless it’s delivered by Ryan Gosling in the pouring rain, before instantly contracting a narratively appropriate form of Alzheimer’s (I’ve not seen The Notebook, this is my best guess). It also won’t stop anytime soon; the more people imitate what they see, the more pop culture has to up the stakes to remain exciting and different. You’ll end up in a feedback loop where depictions of sex are so far removed from the basic act that porn ends up being a blindfolded woman at a desk, writing down a man’s flaws on a piece of paper, before folding it into the shape of a dog, and inserting into the man’s anus, while he laughs. And equally love, weddings and companionship become so expensive and dramatic that there’s no way a lifelong partnership can sustain that initial level of amazement and drama, leading to shorter relationships, therefore more partners, leading to an unending slew of dance routines and amateur poetry, all in competition to find the person they can spend the next 6 months with, before they get bored again. Life will literally be a cabaret.

So what can we do about this? Well, we have to stop putting a fake version of ourselves out there for approval, and show our flaws up front. We have to fart on the dance floor, and take ownership of it. We must pick our noses at dinner, and wipe it onto the table cloth in full view of the waiting staff. We must tell people their tattoos look shit if we think so, and expect others to do the same to us.
And for those in a relationship; shit with the door open, drink from the carton, sneeze into your partner’s face and laugh. Ryan Gosling would never do that, but Ryan Gosling isn’t real. He was sent here as a paragon, an ideal to strive towards, but one we know we can never achieve. Reach for the Goslings and Emily Blunts of the world. But know that when you get together, if they have any sense, they’ll still be picking their spots or sniffing their own balls, because that’s love.

Next time on the Bandwagon – Step aside dogs, according to a new study, man’s best friend is heroin.