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Happiness Can be Found in the Darkest of Times, if One Only Remembers to Turn on the Light: A Comment Diversion

By Rob Payne | Comment Diversions | March 29, 2013 |

By Rob Payne | Comment Diversions | March 29, 2013 |

Of late, I’ve had time to ponder the types of entertainment we gravitate toward when coping with grief and sadness in our lives. Most of the time what we choose to watch or read or listen to depends entirely on what we’re “in the mood” for. But during the hard moments, when you feel helpless and sense the universe’s unbearable unfairness, what we choose to take in seems to take on greater weight. It’s cliche to say that entertainment allows us an escape from cruel reality, and that seems most trite and true when mourning. There’s a reason every EMT and voluntary firefighter I’ve ever known has a deeply gallows sense of humor.

I’ve found that I tend to medicate with a healthy dose of the lighthearted and the childlike, if not the childish. No doubt escaping tragedy with comedy is fairly common, after all Zoolander had to be one of the first movies after September 11, 2001 to break $10 million at the box office for some reason. Audiences were just grateful there was something, anything to laugh at. (I recall enjoying Rat Race much more than I probably should have at the dollar theater around that time, too.) Just over a year later, when I lost my first grandparent, I took solace with Harry Potter, watching Chris Columbus’ Sorcerer’s Stone with friends before the midnight premiere of his adaptation of Chamber of Secrets. I quickly devoured the first four books in the series after that, reveling in the innocent charms of J.K. Rowling’s fantasy world. Harry’s origins, and the knowledge that none of us are truly alone in when loved ones are lost also, no doubt helped, too.

In the week leading up to my grandfather’s passing, I found myself obsessively watching and listening to stand-up comedy, specifically the stylings of Paul F. Tompkins, Pete Holmes, Patton Oswalt, and Louis C.K. These comedians helped me laugh when I sorely needed a reason to do so. I’ve also been reading (finally) A Clash of Kings in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, and at much quicker pace than I did A Game of Thrones several months ago. Some of that is likely due to feeling the pressure of the HBO show’s return, but as with Harry Potter, the historical fantasy is a not unwelcome reminder of just how common death and mourning are in the world, and that so many of us are lucky to live in times and places where these stories are mostly fictions and not our constant reality. I’ve only lost two close family members so far in my lifetime, whereas the lords and ladies in Westeros, and the small folk alike, fear every single news-bringing raven. Dark wings, dark words.

Indeed, these things only offer brief and transitory respite. But they’re always there, these entertainments, to help us see through the black veil and find our way again. And to remind us that our favorite trifles aren’t as trivial as they sometimes seem. So, I’m interested in my fellow Pajibans, distract themselves with during the tough times. Do you hedge toward lighter fare or the darkness, or both? Do you seek refuge in entertainment at all? If not, what’s your go-to emotional salve?

To prove nothing is too embarrassing: I’ve also really gotten into USA’s “Psych” in the past week. Your move.


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