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Friday, 25 January 2013 10:00

Dear Shakespeare – Tranquilliser with no side effects

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My dear Billy,
People today are so busy trying to cope with life and living that they fall victim to stress or trauma and tension. Many do spend considerable amounts on doctors and drugs. A few are on opiates and sedatives, while quite a number are on narcotics.
All these naturally come with their side effects which can be more dangerous than the stress and tension that they seek to chase. There is, however, one tranquilliser which produces no side effects and which is free, having been gifted by the Creator to each human being at birth: laughter.

Laughter is the heart’s own medicine, my dear Billy. A smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks, it is a curve which can set a lot of things straight,  it’s the shortest distance between two human beings. A good laugher is sunshine in a house. Charles Dickens says that if you cannot strew your life’s path with flowers, you can at least strew it  with smiles.

Man is the only creature endowed with the power of laughter, yet there are many people who rarely make use of that power. Seldom do they smile and whenever they do, it’s as if they were mocking themselves for smiling. On the other hand, many do allow their existence to become a long stretch of gnawing, insipid routine which ends only on the day when they are called back by their Maker.

These people would do well to change their attitude and adopt a good-humoured approach to life.  Goethe rightly said that men show their character in nothing more clearly than by what they laugh at. It’s far better to look at the funnier side of life, my dear Billy. Any political event, any social affair, should be regarded as a matter for laughter rather than for deadly concern. There are too many accidents on our roads? That’s no problem as long as it doesn’t happen to you. There’s an acute shortage of water in our reservoirs? That’s the government’s problem; they will have to find the solution. Why should you stop wasting the precious liquid to your heart’s content just to save a few damned drops of water? Save for whom?

No sight is more pathetic than that of a nation incapable of laughing at itself. You can laugh, at yourself and at others, my dear Billy, for being what you and they are. For indeed, it is not at all our fault if there’s no place to go to, nowhere to get except through the illusions of. Life, don’t forget, is but illusion.

I think I’ve told you before, my dear Billy, that people are funny no matter how they are dressed – or even if they are not. There is a streak of drollery in any action that they perform, whether they are eating, drinking, sitting, walking, kissing, talking , sleeping, protesting, crying, dying, corrupting, or hunger-striking. They are even more eccentric in their aspirations, schemes, movements, thoughts, the situations in which they find themselves, the roles they have to play, their relationships with others and their surroundings, the promises that they make and keep or don’t keep, their betrayals. You cannot pose for a photograph without looking absurd; it is impossible to relax on a sofa or sit in a minister’s waiting room without seeming ridiculous.

There is a great deal to laugh at in Mauritius and the world despite the decadence, depravity and perversion, or maybe because of these. The parliamentary sessions, whenever they are held, are a great provider of laughter. It’s a guaranteed treat to see members from all sides of the house tearing each other’s throats with such ferocious fatuity over futilities when there are so many matters of national, regional and international concern that need to be urgently dealt with.

Even the news of great portents which threaten our very existence, like global warming and climate change, or world food shortage, sounds distant and theoretical and is silenced by the deafening din of rumours about politicians’ extramural activities and amorous escapades; of the plastic surgeries and face-lifts undergone by the mistresses of people in position; of the inability of the authorities to tackle the hawkers’ problems.

People here are much more bothered by a rise in the price of imported toothpaste than any hitch in the development programme. They are more harassed and frustrated by the inability of media people to provide pictures and descriptions about the colour and make of the underwear of certain women who are in the public eye than by the noise pollution caused by motorcyclists and late revellers.

Life indeed looks a grim affair in which any attempt at a joke to relieve the gravity would appear as out of place as a mobile phone ringing during a religious ceremony in church. Yet, curiously enough, the instinct to laugh has survived all the scandals, tragedies and sufferings that fill the pages of our history.  As Nietzsche observed, “Man alone suffers so excruciatingly in the world that he was compelled to invent laughter.”

Take it easy. Nothing is, after all, so important. Follow the advice of the Indian sage: “You worry you die, you don’t worry you die. So why worry?”



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