Guideline VI
Rodney St.Michael
© 8-8-2002

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Guideline VI

Learn to laugh at yourself moderately.


People also have many superstitious perceptions about mental illness—especially schizophrenia.  Movies sometimes portray it to be a funny condition, and that gives you an opportunity to develop your sense of humor, and not to take life too seriously.  For instance, two years ago, Jim Carrey starred in the movie Me, Myself, and Irene.  Although he did not accurately play his supposed role as a schizophrenic, since the screenplay confused MPD syndrome with schizophrenia, the movie still gave you an opportunity to laugh at yourself.

In my case, the movie reminds me of Me, Myself, and I Am.  Jim’s movie poster looks like my high school passport photo, and I couldn’t help but giggle and laugh at the fact that Hollywood might have actually gotten a copy of my book’s first episode—a draft that I left behind for public reproduction in a Kinko’s copy center in Arcadia, California, USA, in January, 1994.  Of course, I’m obviously just being paranoid, but it sure is funny!  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, Jim’s poster face looks one part Eastern (eye’s slanted), and one part Western—evenly split in the middle.  It apparently has artistic symbolism.  Isn’t it ironical that organizations like the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) criticized this movie--a film that was just trying to remind society of their current status quo?

Moreover, Asian philosophy has a serious flaw.  It is often too serious and lacks a sense of humor.  And naturally, this presents a serious hindrance to happiness.  For instance, the music network, Channel V, launched a survey for Asian youths aged 15 to 29 (which incidentally approximates the typical age of onset for schizophrenics, bi-polars, or schizoaffectives.)  The survey revealed that the youths of the Philippines are the happiest, with 78% of them being contented with their lives.  On the other hand, the young people of Hong Kong were the saddest, with only 5% being happy.

So, what is the secret of Filipinos?  Generally, they usually don’t take anything seriously.  In fact, when some of them read the excerpt from my book, they think I made it up.  They also think that schizophrenia is some kind of joke.  And while it is true that the Philippines is a leading exporter of “slaves” around the world, sending hospital slaves (nurses), domestic slaves (maids), sex slaves (club entertainers and hostesses), restaurant slaves (waiters and bus boys), and ship slaves (sea men), somehow they always have the time to party, to sing, to dance, and to thank God that they’re alive, even with what little they have.  Truly, that’s living in the moment!

And although Enrique Iglesias might not agree with that, Rob Schnieder probably would.

Of course, like anything else that needs moderation, a sense of humor must not be overdone.  You don’t want to look like a hyena.   And hebephrenia is something that you should watch out for.  Some of you should be careful about that Chesire-cat grin on your face.  For instance, when I watched the movie Spiderman in Siam Discovery Tower’s EGV Cinema in Bangkok, Thailand, about two months ago, I was somewhat pleasantly amused to see the Green Goblin as a scientist who could not control the voices in his head.  Then, as I was slouching on my La-Z-Boy recliner, I realized that I was wearing a green shirt.   My friend next to me was also wearing a green shirt, and pretty soon, you’ll also be wearing a Green Goblin grin mask, if you don’t watch out for that grin on your face.  (Incidentally, Thailand ranked 2nd at 77% in Channel V’s survey.  But they probably would be 1st place if you discount the dishonest Filipino respondents, who didn't take the survey seriously.)

So generally speaking, learn to laugh every now and then, but don’t overdo it.  As the Zen teacher Yangqi said to his student who lacked a sense of humor, “there is one aspect in which you are inferior to that clown.  That clown likes people to laugh, but you are afraid when people laugh.”


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