It’s tiresome to hear again and again in the news about so and so coming out as gay or lesbian. There are three main ways to react to this news (spoiler alert: only one of these reactions is worth talking about):
You don’t care if people are gay, straight, or anywhere in between. You’re happy to see Tim Cook is happy today, and you stand by him and respect his privacy (all of my Twitter feed is this, which makes me happy).
You are very angry about gay people, for any number of antiquated reasons (you’re the worst, but luckily, you’ll probably change when somebody you know comes out to you, and you’ll eventually die. Hopefully you aren’t successful in spreading your vitriol before you go.)
You are gay, but haven’t told anybody or are afraid to come out publicly yourself. You worry you might lose your job, or be kicked out of your apartment, or bullied, or ostracized, or attacked. If you are this, maybe, just maybe, you get a chance to be hopeful of the future. If you can’t already where you live, you might one day be able to get married, have pretty basic human rights, and be able to openly love the person/people you care about. This is the important one, and that’s why a CEO in the Fortune 500 coming out is a big deal in 2014.
If you don’t care about this news, good. You’re not the problem. You can move on with your day, a little happier one more person doesn’t have to hide a part of themselves anymore. We’re all human.
This same logic applies to #gamergate, sexism, and many other kinds of discrimination. We need to keep talking about these issues. If sexist discrimination doesn’t happen to you, be happy for it and move on with your day, but be aware that it does happen. Speak up when you see it. Be part of the solution. It’s hard for men to see or be aware of sexism and harassment, because it doesn’t happen to us nearly as regularly as it does to women. And it doesn’t happen in Canada as much as it does in the States (please correct me if I am wrong on this, I know it happens here too). But it does happen everywhere there are misguided people. People who don’t realize what they’re doing or don’t care.
It’s not ok. But let’s work together to make sure there is a future where it will be a thing of the past.
There is substantial scientific evidence showing that nature and nurture (ie. genetics and environment) both play an important role in determining our personality, intelligence, and our tastes as adults. That being said, I thought it would be interesting for me (and hopefully for you) to look back at where I came from, and how it shaped me into who I am today.
I have spent the vast majority of my life not taking things seriously…
My parents were excellent role models who guided me gently through childhood and adolescence. I was always taught that nothing was out of my reach if I really wanted it badly enough. My mom and dad also showed me that there is a time to push and show what is really important (like eating stupid vegetables), and times when it probably doesn’t matter so much (like eating spicy food). It was always very important to my parents that I take responsibility for my own decisions, from a very early age. I enjoyed the freedom this afforded me, and it also taught me a lot of very valuable life decisions.
I have spent the vast majority of my life (if not all of it) with not taking things seriously as my default. There are obviously a few exceptions where things need to be taken seriously, but I find they fall few and far between. Instead, my experiences have shown me that having a good time is what’s most important in terms of living a fulfilling life. I’ve written previously about getting along well with people in life, and in especially relationships, as in a game of Hollywood Squares. Let a joke (even a stupid one) be a reason to smile, relax, and laugh a little. We’re all friends here.
…little else can help you understand life better than a bit of satirical humour.
My dad was probably the person who introduced me to sarcasm and satire, as well as to homage. I think I learned from him not to take anything too seriously, as the people you love and who love you back will forgive mistakes and accidents as a part of life. Growing up with TV like the Simpsons, with reruns on every night as a teenager, I learned that little else can help you understand life better than a bit of satirical humour. That idea has continued with me throughout my life, from the Office, to Parks and Recreation, to TV personalities like Stephen Colbert. There is no better way to learn about the intricacies of something than to have a great writer deconstruct it and make jokes at its expense.
Mostly, what I have learned from my experiences living punchline to punchline, is that not taking life too seriously is one of the absolute best ways to avoid stress. While the rest of the world keeps on spinning and taking itself FAR too seriously, one of the best things you can do is sit back and laugh to yourself about how silly self-importance is. There are SO many very serious and extremely contentious issues on planet Earth to worry over, that an escape from that, even a brief one, is all I need to stay grounded.
Or maybe I’m wrong.
I wonder pretty often whether the world we live in now is going to be the final reality, in terms of science, geopolitics, religion, climate, technology, language, behaviour, communication. It seems to me that it is almost impossible that that would be the case, seeing as how things have changed and been updated so frequently in the far and recent pasts that it has probably been said and recorded throughout history that things will remain the way they are and that we have basically arrived at humanity’s endpoint. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is essentially as good as it’s going to get, and we should all start learning quantum mechanics because it affords us an understanding of the way the entire universe works (although dark matter and energy would suggest that our current understanding probably isn’t even near complete).
Any way you look at it, even in our most peaceful years as a species on Earth, there are still terrible things going on all around the world. There are an estimated 25 million people in the world who are basically considered slaves right at this moment, because of low or no pay and abhorrent working conditions. At least 50% of the North American population is dealing with subjugation, sexism, homophobia, human and civil rights violations, inequality, ignorance, abuse, violence, war, and innumerable other problems. In the rest of the world the percentages are much higher than that.
…pay a little more attention to “funny” people…
We have the ability as a society to right these inequalities. We have the technology to cure most diseases, we can generate enough renewable energy to power our world several times over if we sat down and hashed out the details. We could severely limit the power and motive of individuals to commit violent acts if we simply did away with outdated prejudices and assault weapons, and stopped abusing belief systems to prop up atrociously unfair political systems. Humans’ ability to stop these injustices exist right now, and the people doing the most to expose these systems for what they are are the satirists who unravel the complexities of everyday occurrences and use humour to inform and to make us aware of what is going on.
Therefore, I move that we all pay a little more attention to “funny” people, because you have the most to learn from somebody who is lightheartedly trying to show you how wrong the world is. Short of visiting everyone in the world to see that we’re not so different, this is probably the best thing you can do to make the world a better place.