Saturday, January 09, 2010

Clown therapy

I'd like to talk about the Parable of the High Note, from the book of Seinfeld, chapter 9, verse 16. In that episode, Jerry counsels George to apply the Vegas showmanship trick of "walking off on a high note" after making a well-received joke in a meeting.

I have known and used this principle for a long time. Through high school, I was the one in music class (when it wasn't the teacher) to make every and any possible (often terrible) pun. The theory was, and still is, even if you have a whole string of bad and unfunny (yet theoretically clever) jokes, eventually you'll hit a really good one--a high note. As with games of chance, you hang around with the odds around 50/50, and when you get a statistically inevitable blip in your favour, quit the game and collect your winnings.

For a class clown, the 'winnings' are laughs at a particularly good joke (or groans at a very bad one).

Tonight I realized that this principle applies to practical things, beyond gambling and tomfoolery.

A friend of mine was having some emotional issues, and like me, she considers emotions to be those things that get in the way of logic. She had discussed her problem with various friends, and even some therapists, to no avail, but tonight she told me about it.

Now, I enjoy helping people and making them genuinely feel better (instead of just placating them, as some people do, until the person seeking advice just damn pretends to feel better in order to stop being placated). I also think I have a bit of a knack for it, and, to be honest, I never feel better than when I help a good friend turn from miserable to cheerful. (I also thoroughly appreciate my friends who can do the same for me.)

When someone comes to you to feel better, they're not really looking for you to say things (even if they're asking you 'for advice'), they need you to shut up and listen to them. Often the person feels better by mere virtue of having put it into words.

Of course I said things I thought would make my friend feel better, but most of the time it was stuff she'd heard already from other friends, or therapists or considered herself, or otherwise didn't help. She and I were both patient, we continued to talk, and eventually, I managed to say the right thing, in the right way, to make her feel better. And then we changed subjects.

So the important aspect in both the class-clowning and the advice-giving, is persistence and patience on both parts. Eventually, the Right Thing will be said. When it is, leave it on that high note.

- RG>

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