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Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Schadenfreude Mirror

schadenfreude: pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.

That German word - literal translation per Wikipedia = "ham joy" - is very useful. My first thought recently hearing someone describe an obituary as "fascinating" was what an odd choice of adjective she'd used. Then as I reflected further, I realized how many people I've known who are indeed fascinated by obituaries. Are obits your frequent path to schadenfreude?

Then I turned around the mirror. I wondered - Are us older folks more likely to read obits than young people? Intuitively, it would seem so, but they're not my thing now; never have been. However, me being jarred by that fascinating adjective does not mean schadenfreude street is unfamiliar to me. My brake foot and rubber neck have intersected more than once. Sometimes I'm able to recall more details about the gory deeds of some serial killers than wholesome information about people who ennoble the spirit. Etc., unfortunately.

Not long ago I read a comment attributed to Gore Vidal, a favorite author of mine for many years. Vidal said in order to be happy it wasn't enough that he was wildly successful; other authors also had to fail miserably. If Vidal really felt that way - he was known for provoking controversy just for the sake of it - then he's got me beat in the schadenfreude sweepstakes. How about you? If you're above it all, it's probably better the rest of us on the bell curve don't hear about it. No hard feelings.

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