Wednesday, January 01, 2014

2014 is the Year of Laughing like Kafka

This year, I'm trying this trend where I have a theme instead of a resolution. And this isn't just because I broke all of my concrete resolutions by April of last year...

For 2014, the theme is to laugh like Kafka. Franz Kafka, who wrote the most dark and wonderful stories, would encourage everyone to laugh at the absurdly dark situations of his protagonists. During readings, apparently he would laugh so jovially and in such contrast with the grim content that people would be confused. Instead of feeling stressed or angry or scared, I want to laugh like Kafka at the absurdity of my own life.

It's been getting harder and harder to not take life too seriously. My mother is always telling me, "Aren't you getting a little old to have blogs where you take pictures of yourself wearing funny glasses?" (See here and here.) Junior Ph.D. students keep saying to me, "Aren't you really old? Why aren't you more serious?" And people are always saying, "You went to Harvard and MIT. Shouldn't you be, like, really serious?" Even though I'm getting really old and I subscribe to The Economist, this does not mean I need to have a permanent scowl.

There are many things to laugh about. How the mental health of Ph.D. students can be measured in terms of the number of days, and sometimes hours, in between existential crises. The fact that there exist contraptions called epilators that have dozens of tiny tweezers for pulling out body hair. That time I spent the most money ever on a tasting menu meal and then spent the next day incapacitated, conducting several important meetings via phone from bed, purging my digestive system in between. Misogynists, racists, xenophobes, and homophobes. Plagues of frogs, locusts, darkness, and death of the firstborn...

Laughing does not mean being disrespectful or apathetic. It simply involves seeing a situation in a way that is less weighty and overwhelming. So whenever I am looking less than happy in 2014, ask whether I should be laughing instead.

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