I begin with, among many available options, three ways a person can learn things.
“I know seven people who ate those mushrooms and died. I am not touching those mushrooms.”
I crashed two cars on the first day I bought them, showing them off to people I was trying to impress. What I learned was, being unable to control my proclivity to impress, I would show off my new cars only after they were parked.
“The consolation of imaginary things is not imaginary consolation.”
Seemingly true, although how that works – the magician enchanted by their own trick – is seductively shrouded in mystery.
Okay, that’s three.
I now add a fourth avenue of illuminating awareness.
You can learn things from a joke.
If it is the right kind of joke. (You will learn nothing from comedian Gallagher, slamming a watermelon with a sledgehammer, except “Don’t sit near the front.”) (An old reference? Tell that to folks with permanent watermelon stains on their sports jackets.)
A recent example of what I am talking about…
I have recently told the story of my fellow “student” at Oxford fixing my suddenly defective cellphone – the screen had turned milky, and I was unable to call out. After a startlingly brief interval of educated tinkering, Fan returned my cellphone, now fully and healthfully operational.
I am relievedly thrilled by its functional recovery. (My effusive “Thank you!” topped by an unplanned kiss on the hand.)
Only shortly thereafter did I notice that, subsequent to Fan’s heroic efforts, the twenty or so icons on the “Home Screen” – or whatever you call it – had been reduced in size, and were now smaller than they had previously been. My reflexive – and juvenile – reaction was to gracelessly return the phone, asking, “Could you fix the icons?”
But I didn’t, an act requiring considerable restraint on my part, being, by nature or perhaps habit, a shockingly ungrateful individual. (An illumination alsogleaned from personal experience.)
The reason I held back, I was consciously aware,
Was because of a joke.
A well-known joke. You may have heard it before – possibly even in this venue – its current reprise confirming the case that jokes can tangibly better your behavior.
Here’s the joke that kept me from putting Fan unnecessarily back to work.
The (comedian) Henny Youngman Version:
“A little Jewish Grandma is at the Florida coast with her little Jewish grandson.
The grandson is playing on the beach when a big wave comes and washes the kid out to sea. The lifeguards swim out, bring him back to shore, the paramedics work on him for a long time, pumping the water out, reviving him. They turn to the little Jewish Grandma and say, “We saved your grandson.” The little Jewish Grandma says,
“He had a hat.”
Swear to Gosh, it was that joke that restrained me from demanding further repair work on my cellphone. I did not want to be, “He had a hat.”
Call it educational teamwork.
Philosopher and teacher.
Student of comedy, and life.
Although if anyone knows how to make the icons bigger…