Natural, nurture, death and humour

Natural, nurture, death and humour

I saw some people taking photographs the other day. It reminded me of the time I lost my parents. And by lost I mean they died and not that I lost them in a shopping mall or something…the connection? You may very well ask…the first connection was the photos that I have of them – happy times mostly…times that one wants to capture in pictures. Hence we have many wedding pictures, but not many of the divorce. Many of the baby being born, and not many of the person dying…the second connection was the unnaturalness of some of the responses one has to the death of loved ones. The responses especially to people who I hardly knew who came to sympathise with us. I was in my 20’s. What I know now as opposed to what I knew then is quite remarkable.

Oh if we could only live in photographs…I am reminded of a time I had to take the cast for a photo shoot for a new show we were doing at the time. And photographs are strange things – something I had always known, but was reminded of starkly at this shoot. I remember everyone being quite tired as they arrived since we’d been rehearsing for a while before the shoot. Then comes the dressing up – something they were loath to do as well – (I remember it was a bit chilly that day). Then we started the session. And everyone leapt into smiling mode – the atmosphere in the room changed altogether – from sullen to happy, albeit only while their pictures were being taken. And I remembered whenever photos were taken – even as a child at family gatherings – there would be smiles galore. Sometimes I would know about people’s misery at the time of being photographed, and I would wonder about those fake smiles…as I do still to this day.

But I also thought about what has become the norm. What becomes the “things we just do or say”, because we think we ought to. I also remember re-watching the film ‘Lovely and Amazing’ and in it, Catherine Keener’s character tells everyone to f**k off whenever she has beef with them – something she says as a matter of course – because she is so angry with the world. But throughout the movie, her cynicism and derision allows her to be forthright – something we should perhaps incorporate more in our lives (the ingenuousness I mean, not the cynicism and derision).

It is something we just do, isn’t it? We say things (as if for a fact) like “Don’t worry, everything’s going to be okay”, to people going through rough after the death of a loved one – without even knowing that it will be. It is merely a hope that we express. It is something we “just say”. Like the photo shoot – it is something we just do – to look happy in photos – like we only want to capture our happy moments in life and document those to show the world what a happy existence we have or had. Perhaps that is why we take so long to get over things or to “deal” with things – we have a constant shying away from problems and often a lack of knowledge to deal with issues because we are too busy faking how happy we are? Perhaps some more practice in pragmatism wouldn’t hurt? And this kind of “doing for the sake of doing” permeates a lot more in our lives than mere photos.

Who, for example, are we allowed to make fun of? Is it okay to make fat jokes or gay jokes, not knowing whether there are fat or gay people (and their families) in the audience? But don’t make jokes about disabled people? Is it no longer politically correct to make black jokes? Just who should bear the brunt of humour? We believe we stick to our guns and make fun of everyone, or should we stay conservative and go the safe route and only make fun of those we were “allowed” to make fun of all our lives?

Thing is, with comedy and conservatism, I found it is best to do as you please, within your own boundaries, as set by yourself – that is why you have a sense of morality. Depending on how hardcore some people are, and how many people lack a sense of humour, something you say or do will always offend someone. Am I right or am I right?

rafiek@mweb.co.za