According to Miriam-Webster Online:
Schadenfreude (n): a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people
I have often made the claim that I am without the capability of Schadenfreude, a German word that means “harm joy.” I have to deliberately allow myself to laugh at slapstick. I have to prepare myself for movies that are a series of hilarious misfortunes for the character. The first time I watched the movie Tommy Boy, I sat there, in my theater seat, cringing.
I did laugh at one point. The part of the movie where Richard (David Spade) goes inside the gas station to get a map and Tommy (Chris Farley) has to fill the car with gas? Tommy breaks the door, hides the mistake, and then pretends not to know what happened when Richard opens the door, and it falls off the car. This moment. I laughed. Hard. It was the only moment in the whole movie that I could relate to. Trying to hide my mistakes.
Now, I can laugh. I love that movie. I recite along with Tommy’s monologue with the biscuit. I often quote that something doesn’t hurt so much here (point above the pain), or here (point below the pain), but right here (point at massive bruise).
Is it because I know everything is going to be ok, so I can relax and take the pleasure in the characters’ pain that the movie intended? [You can’t see me. I’m shrugging. No idea.]
So, what’s the opposite of Schadenfreude? Taking pleasure in someone else’s good fortune? Duh, joy. Gladness. Happy-for-you-ness. But. But. The word? The gerund? The taking of the pleasure?
Until I am better educated on the matter, I can only believe that we do not have a direct translation of Schadenfreude or its opposite, such as the Hebrew word “firgun,” which means taking pleasure from another’s fortune (Butnick).
[Oh yeah, this post is gonna have a Works Cited. Fancy.]
So why the hell am I talking about all this stuff? Because. Because Hananah received a Yes. That wonderful word I talked about last week. She had a story accepted this week; she has been no stranger to acceptances lately.
What’s my count? Um, pass.
Here’s the thing. When I first get news of Hananah’s well-deserved successes, my first reaction is not envy. I know we are women. This is supposed to be a woman thing, but not for me. I do not engage in female friendships that carry envy and resentment. Life is too damn short for that shit.
But I don’t feel immediate firgun either. Honestly, I feel panic. As Hananah and I do this thing together, and we really feel like we are doing this thing together, there is the inevitable metaphor of being on the track together, running, but there she goes. The back of her gorgeous dark head, leaping over a hurtle into which I am about to face plant. But, I don’t mean the competition aspect of this metaphor so much as the feeling of being left behind.
WHAT’S THE WORD FOR THAT?!?!? Damn it! It’s not “abandoned.” It’s not “deserted.” Those words put responsibility on the person leaving. The person ahead. When I feel this feeling that hath no name, the responsibility is on me. I have failed to keep up. I am not good enough…oh, the word is “failing.”
But then, my ever so rational head steps in and says, “Shut it. You’re a moron.” (Man, I need to work on my internal communication. This is not a nice place.)
I know very well that there is no correlation between her success and my own. It’s entirely up to me to calm down and keep writing and stop worrying about the publication aspect of things while not giving up on my hopes and dreams, and all that junk.
When I do calm down, I do have firgun. Here’s the fun part of what Hananah and I do. We read each other’s work, suggest changes, try to make the story better as if it were our own. And then, we feel genuine attachment to each other’s work.
I call her stories my narrative nieces and nephews. She feels the same way. So when I squash the anxiety that momentarily flares, I get to watch my little niece or nephew walk across the stage and shake the hand of someone handing out certificates. I can take pictures and wave and maybe even blow the illegal air horn that may get me kicked out of the ceremony. I have investment in those nieces and nephews. I can actually see my influence, there, in their faces. And that feeling is a great feeling. WAIT. What’s the word for that???
Oh yeah. Pleasure.
[Behold: Schadenfreude in action as my older sister, Michelle, forces me to walk across the mile-high, swinging bridge at Grandfather Mountain. See her pleasure. This is nothing like Agape.]
[Kenyon 2014. The landing after we jumped in the air – the photo for this blog on the main page. Though I love that photo, I kind of like this one more. The raw fun. The real deal.]
Works Cited. As Promised.
Butnick, Stephanie. “What’s The Opposite of Schadenfreude? The Hebrew Word ‘Firgun’ Might Be Close.” Tablet Magazine. Web. 8 Feb. 2015.
“Schadenfreude.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2011. Web. 8 May 2011.