Sunday, May 13, 2012

Adult Pleasures XVI: Schadenfreude

What is life but a continual exercise in revision?

We think about that email we sent or the response we gave in a work meeting and mentally revise how (both procedurally and substantively) we will respond in a similar, future situation. Always, we wonder: do we show all our cards in an effort to make a statement, or are we more circumspect, leaving subtlety and subtext to assume the burden of our messages to others?

We rewind a thousand times the memories of our conversations, lectures, and work presentations because we perceive some flaw in our communication. We aim to isolate those errors and disturbances, and remedy them so our embarrassment is curtailed  in the future.

We rewrite our prose to clarify our thoughts.

We remind ourselves of the kind of person we wish to be.

We rejuvenate with yoga, while aspiring to not let the world trample on our spirits so much.

We rewind, relive, rejoin, remand, remind, remonstrate, redirect, resurrect, recalculate, redistribute, readjust, repair, recycle, reassign, reexamine, and review.

Much of our life activity, it seems, revolves around words with prefixes, all in an attempt to improve and Become.

But if we are not careful, the aspirational trajectory of our lives may become overwhelmed by our hyperactive superegos which continually remind us of our failings and foibles.

And so it is easy to understand why the Germans so efficiently (always efficiently) compressed a big emotional experience into (for German) a not so long word: Schadenfreude. For here we have the encapsulation of an experience whereby the emphasis shifts away from our self-induced purges to concentrating on the misfortunes and mistakes of others. For once, we can silence the incessant inner nagging and see that others, too, make and receive their folly.

Ah, yes, Schadenfreude. We know it well, even if we hesitate to admit it.

But sometimes the misfortunes and mistakes of others present us with opportunities--and that is something to really celebrate.

For instance, I brought home this Foxglove--a plant I otherwise would not willingly situate in my garden (they are pretty, but, as my dear reader knows, I am a garden snob and I have peculiar, if fluctuating, tastes). But, it was a gift from a gardening friend, an extra, and gardeners cannot willingly send plants to their deaths if they can help it (hence the generosity of gardeners: "please, come and take these plants." "OF COURSE you can have these; I am dividing and removing." "No, no, you aren't imposing; I offered, silly!")

It was labeled creamy yellow, and I thought it would look smashing in the yellow and blue bed.

Well, look at it. What idiot switched the tag?

What an eyesore.

(Though I hear my cousin Arianna now: "Pink: you always need pink." (Can one discern her favorite color?)

She would be thrilled to see how pink, a color I tried to banish from my garden, has made deep intrusions into my garden--always unconscious, always startling and denounced, yet always welcomed with a murmur, "gosh, that's so beautiful."

Her Schadenfreude--"Ha! Pink Prevails! The ban collapses!"--becomes, curiously, my delight too!

As I stared at this eyesore, I had a thought: move it. (Ahem. yes, dear reader, I am a bit slow.)

How perfect an accompaniment to the blues and purples of the East Side Shade Bed!

 How perfect an accompaniment to the neighbor's rhododendron!

Transplanting the Foxglove thus gave me an opportunity to revise and amend, which for all intents and purposes translated into a visit to my favorite garden center.

A Thunderbolt Hosta took the place of the Foxglove, its blues a perfect contrast to the oranges and yellows of Lena Scotch Broom, which is now underplanted with Orange Marmalade Hosta, and Citronelle Heuchera.

Schadenfreude: it gives us pleasure in so many ways.


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