I believe in the power of Schaudenfreude – satisfaction or pleasure felt at another’s misfortune. For an endless variety of reasons, we as human beings practically feed off of others’ mistfortunes. Although most of us genuinely do not enjoy it, it’s usually somewhat comforting to know at least someone’s got it worse than I do. As horrible as that makes us sound, it’s true. It’s something instilled in us at a very young age. For instance, I can recall a particular occasion where I complained about the food my mother placed on my plate. Her responce was something along the lines of: “Be grateful you even have food! Some children have parents that can’t afford to feed them, and some don’t even have parents!” I ate every last morsel of food off of my plate that night. And I was grateful.
I also recall another night, several years later. I was at the mall, a constant hang-out for my friends and I, when I spotted an old friend of mine. We ended up talking for a while and catching up on the things we had missed in each others’ lives. She told me how she had been recently going through a very tough time that was only being made worse by a certain ex-boyfriend of hers who happened to be at the mall as well that night. My friend and I ventured outside to the tables in front of the ever-popular Starbucks to continue our conversation, where we came accross a ‘fight.’ Looking back on the incident, it wasn’t really a fight; due to a lack of teen-approved entertainment here in Columbia, we all only wished it had been a fight. In reality, it was an overly-large ring of people surrounding two guys yelling about who-cares-what. As we attempted to get closer to this ‘fight’ we ended up standing next to none other than my friend’s ex. Her face immediately fell from the excitement of the ‘fight’ to the disappointment of seeing someone who had caused so much hurt to her. I was about to turn and suggest that we move to another spot when her ex suddenly realized he knew one of the boys ‘fighting.’ At this, he became very excited and, in an attempt to rush to his friend’s aide, he ran about three feet and tried to jump over the bush seperating him from his friend. Tried being the operative word in this situation. Apparently he didn’t think through his plan of action well enough before executing: his foot hit the highest branch of the bush and he fell, face first, into another bush. My friend and I began laughing pretty hysterically, as did every one else in the surrounding area, and if I remember correctly, one of the first things out of my friend’s mouth through fits of laughter was ‘That just about made my entire night!’ She definitely seemed a bit happier for the remainder of the time I spent with her.
Schaudenfreude, as it is very well exemplified in the puppet musical Avenue Q, is a little different for everyone. For me, it made me a little more grateful about the things I do have compared to the things others don’t. For my friend, her ex-boyfriend’s face plant put her in a better mood than she had been in for days. Some people may even learn from the amusing misfortunes they have heard of or witnessed. Have you ever watched America’s Funniest Home Videos? I’m believe that by the end of each episode watched, every viewer will have laughed hysterically or at least smiled at the footage of some one tripping, slipping, falling, crying, getting punched, or being hit in the head by a ball or a fan. I also believe, and am almost completely certain that, after watching only one episode, most intelligent men will not stand directly behind (or anywhere within radius of) any small child swinging any type of bat. I believe in the power of Schaudenfreude.