Stealing from the Thief

Humor is good for all.


The lemon twist of humor. It is worth a lot.

After suffering a terrible beating by a gang, Don Quixote tries to think positively by saying, “There is no pain to which death will not put a period.” His pessimistic sidekick, Sancho, says, “Thanks for nothing. What worse can befall us than to have only death to trust to? Were our afflictions to be cured with a plaster or two, a man might have some patience, but from what I can see, all the salves in a hospital won’t set us on our best legs again.” By these remarks, Cervantes paints a little humor over the humiliating beating the noble Knight and his servant have endured. Don Quixote himself is a tragic but also a comic character.

Losing your motor function and being put into burning pain isn’t much of a context for humor. All the more reason to keep it around.

It is interesting how many with central pain, lost in the early stages, fearing being driven mad, resorted to humor as a preserver of sanity. Consider the following quotes from the survey.

“I had spent so much on medical care that there were nights when I had nothing to eat, but I paid a psychiatrist to try to keep my sanity. He said little, understood less. Pain was pain, and all that was to be sorted out was how one bore it well and another bore it poorly. It was obvious to him which category I belonged in. I kept my money from then on and went down the row of the humor section in the local video store. I was the last person to smile, but somehow, I made it through that incredibly dark and fearful time until I finally found someone who could diagnose my central pain. That person made me no longer alone in the world, but I might not have made it without the string of stupid videos to hold my mind and keep me from thinking”.

“I have always felt I was cheating central pain, cheating the devil, by staying alive. Stupid humor has been one of the implements.”

“No one. Absolutely no one understood, and so what they said about my central pain was no help at all. What did help was my former friend from work, who was forever trying to get even with his old girlfriend who had become engaged to a wealthy dentist. His antics were dumb, and he knew it, and he even laughed about it, but his stories were like diamonds to me when life had not only closed in, but closed over any light at all. And although he knew nothing about central pain, he knew something about the necessary essentials of surviving tragedy.”

Humor in central pain is unexpected, and all the more appreciated.

Shakespeare made a great observation about attitude in one of his most tragic plays, “Othello” (Act I, sc. iii, l.208). The father of Desdemona is grief stricken when his daughter chooses a Moor, Othello, for a husband. The Duke reminds the father:

“The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief
He robs himself, that spends a bootless* grief.”

One person with CP said his family called him a “Pain Wino”. In the midst of CP, perhaps we can be forgiven for some lightmindedness and silliness. Some of the medication can have effects, not unlike being drunk anyway. What dignity are we trying to perserve, which is greater than the dignity owed us for surviving it. We are probably serious enough: and yet it is true, need soberness of purpose to survive. Such soberness, paradoxically, may lie next to a little humor.

And as for the pain, let us cheat the devil every chance we get. And when his back is turned, let us let the smile escape. We are alive. Humor has raised our boiling point. We have not died from the mortal wound. Our destruction was assured, but the escape was made nevertheless. In that dark body of yours, some sunshine resides, and can go a long way. Try a little humor. For ten dollars a month, you can have all the videos you can watch. And when you feel a little better, maybe your psychiatrist will take you seriously. It is true that by wearing a smile, those around you will doubt your severe pain, but they doubt you anyway. Do not rob yourself by sitting in naked grief.

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*naked