The root cause of most of the problems that we face as adults is that, somewhere down the line, we jettison the cheery disposition and unfettered exuberance that characterize our teens. As teenagers, we would have laughed our guts out on seeing the Maths teacher trip over a banana skin and fracture his ribs. Served the old man right, we would have told ourselves. ‘Guy ought to be happy that he wasn’t knocked down by a truck’ we would have commented in a careless manner and carried on with whatever youthful activity we were engaged in at that moment.
At some pre-ordained moment soon after our teens, we metamorphose into morose morons. Sliding into adulthood, we lose our bearings and our sense of humour completely. When a colleague trips over his shoelace and rolls down a flight of stairs, rather than assessing the situation as one pregnant with comical possibilities we reach out to help that person to his feet, overpowered by a misguided sense of sympathy and concern. A 14-year old would have remarked that the fellow who rolled down from the third floor ought to be thankful that it wasn’t the sixth floor he started his roll from, so why the unnecessary fuss?
It is all a matter of perspective - as my daughter has been trying to impress upon me for years. Consider these conversational nuggets.
Daughter (when she is 5 years old): Can I take four of these chocolate éclairs?
Me: Four éclairs!
Daughter: Am I asking you for the whole box? Be thankful I want only four of those.
Five years later, same parent, same offspring:
Daughter: Can I invite thirty of my friends to my birthday party?
Me: Thirty friends!!
Daughter: I have forty classmates. I am being extremely considerate to you and inviting only thirty of them. You ought to be thankful, you know.
Five more years roll on:
Daughter: I need to go to the beauty parlour. To colour my hair
Me: And I am expected to sponsor the event. How much?
Daughter: Five hundred rupees.
Me: Five hundred for your burgundy hair!!!
Daughter: Listen; some of my friends spend two thousand rupees on hair smoothening and a massage. I am merely colouring my hair and it sets you back by a measly five hundred rupees. Be grateful, you stingy Scrooge.
You follow the pattern. Any situation, however grim, can be made to appear rosy, by invoking an image of an even graver situation, thereby placing the original problem in a new perspective and a favourable setting. You end up thanking your stars that you had averted a major calamity and that you had actually gotten away lightly. As in this letter written, from a boarding school, by a daughter to her mom and dad. Or those good-news, bad news jokes we keep reading.
Why not apply this technique in some typical situations? :
Doctor: I have the scan reports. You have brain tumour.
Patient: Brain tumour!!!
Doctor: It is far better than being diagnosed with meningomonosi calmnia, a rare disease that attacks the middle toe and can prevent you from wearing shoes. believe me. Be thankful, it is just your brain that has been affected.
Boss: We are downsizing. You are fired!
Boss: We had to gun down a few of your other colleagues. Believe me, you are a lucky devil!
Wife: You have been glued to that stupid computer for two hours now. Why don’t you stop your silly blogging and do some useful work for a change?
Me: There are some incurable addicts in the blogosphere who cannot get off the computer and who need to post some stuff or other for 22 hours every day. You are lucky to have as your life partner, an amazingly responsible and incredibly sensible person who strikes such a wonderful balance and exercises such remarkable restraint. Be happy, woman.