Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Reality Of Ridiculous.



The Reality of Ridiculous.

Have you ever felt ridiculous? Ever had someone point out that you looked ridiculous? Perhaps you have, yourself told someone else that an idea they proposed was ‘simply ridiculous?’

We’ve all heard the word in use in our daily lives at some point or another. Everyone on the planet by virtue of living among our fellow examples of humanity and/or members of society has experienced feeling or being made to feel ridiculous. Many of us have less than favorable memories stashed away in our mental vaults that we’d rather pretend didn’t exist that involve that very word as a center piece.

What does the word even mean though? If you look it up in a dictionary it might say something like: ‘deserving or inviting derision or mockery; absurd.’ I suppose on a technical level that is an appropriate explanation of the term itself. But, to me, the real true meaning of it is something a little different. In my opinion ridiculous is more along the lines of meaning any identifiable or noticeable difference perceived as being separate from conforming to the greater general majority.

I’ve had more than my share of first hand experiences with the word ridiculous over the course of my life. I won’t lie about it, for a long time I let people make me feel ridiculous on a regular basis. For example as a child I had a pair of denim overalls the spitting image of some my father wore every day to work. I would put them on and help him with things around the house/yard/garden. For me I took pride in my overalls, they made me feel good about myself.

Then one day I wore them to school oblivious to how other kids may perceive them or react. I quickly discovered that I had just painted myself as a prime target for ridicule. Regardless of the fact that our school was a small rural district among a collective of small rural districts that made up – you guessed it; a rural county. The majority of students all had grown up on a farm, around a farm or completely immersed in farm culture. But that didn’t matter; I was the one kid who showed up one day wearing something completely different than anything else the other kids were wearing. So they made me feel ridiculous, and I in my ignorance let them.

Years later on in my education, somewhere near the end of elementary and perhaps the early days of junior high I recall attending my first school dance. It didn’t leave me with a lasting desire to make a long tradition of repeating. Once more I was oblivious with regard to my attire and showed up in dress pants, shirt, complete with tie and vest. My first clue was when my cousin arrived at my house in infinitely more casual clothes.

When we reached the dance itself I found myself instantly engulfed in ridicule and feeling the full brunt of what that can impart onto you. To make matters worse I had no concept of how to dance or any comfortable facsimile thereof. Some friends of mine convinced me of trying to make use of some physical comedy gags I had improvised like waddling in place like a penguin and calling it ‘penguin dancing’ as well as sticking one foot spaced far in front of the other almost in a straight line and rocking back and forth like a rocking horse.

Ever heard the phrase most often used to try and console someone after they have reached new heights of ridiculous; they’re laughing with you instead of at you? I heard that one a lot – almost in a chorus stereo format style even. You can honestly tell a difference even as a kid between good spirited humor and people making a mockery of you. The entire rest of the night I spent being a repository for people’s pity or more pointed proclamations of being ridiculous.

As I grew up I eventually discovered the truth of the matter; that feeling ridiculous is something that solely rests with you. Some other kid once tried to mock me by pointing out that my T-shirt didn’t match a flannel shirt I was wearing over it. In fact, they (as I recall) tried to claim that I had to be color blind. Truthfully, I am not color-blind at all but I do happily concede to being color-stupid. I can tell one color apart from another without much trouble, but when it comes to instinctively knowing what two colors compliment and what ones clash I am woefully ignorant. Which I must point out doesn’t really matter much to me.

In retaliation and armed with my burgeoning understanding I started making it a point to wear mismatched color schemes of the same sort – often resorting to the most obvious pairings I had available. I would put on a bright blue shirt and then throw on a vibrant red flannel with it. In the face of any attempt to make me feel ridiculous I would simply smile and reply with comments along the lines of ‘I like how I look,’ or ‘what does it matter if I don’t match,’ etc.

Over the years as I grew up I found more and more that no body could make me feel ridiculous unless I allowed them to. I also started to see more and more the unmistakable association between what everyone else expected of you based on conformity and those they directed ridicule towards. Even as an adult it continued – and I don’t foresee it is something that will ever completely vanish from society.

That doesn’t mean that we should keep propagating it. That doesn’t mean we need to live in ignorance of how we allow it to affect us. It is our choice alone to permit it to make us feel bad or deny it any power over us.

I worked a job at local manufacturing plant for years holding a respectable job operating machines that were responsible for providing every other aspect of the production process with the raw materials they needed to build about everything they made. It wasn’t easy, it was long hours working from just before midnight to just after noon constantly moving and trying to pay attention to hundreds of moving strands of fiberglass and dozens on spools of woven fiberglass matte cloth as it was being pulled into a heated metal die, coated in thick sticky resin and coming out as a solid beam on the opposite end. It didn’t take much to have the process come to a crashing halt leaving some horrible messes on par with a gooey Gordian knot still heated to triple digits and an entire plant of other people depending on the flow of the materials we made to enable them to keep working.

The very first day I showed up for that job, I did so wearing a comfortable pair of old overalls. Worked in them every night too and didn’t give a hoot what anyone else thought or said on the matter. Although it is a little difficult to make a grown man feel ridiculous no matter what he is wearing if you watch him run over to a river of moving fiberglass mattes and strands of fiberglass string to start sewing thing together while it is still moving to keep it from crashing.

Point of the matter is that if you spend your days letting everyone make you feel ridiculous then you’ll never give yourself the time to show those same people that it doesn’t matter if you don’t dress the same or act the same. Just be yourself, be comfortable with who you are and don’t ever feel guilty about finding out who that person is (or is going to be). You can even be ridiculous if you want to be – but never let anyone make you feel that way.

Because if you ever stop and take the time to sound that word out it tells you all you need to know about anyone who tries to make you think you are being it

Re – [explicative deleted] – you – us; they’re trying to reinforce the difference between you and the rest of ‘us.’ And in the process all they are reinforcing is that they are the omitted component of that word themselves. Why don’t we all make an honest attempt to pay a little less attention to what others are saying is ridiculous and a little more on who we are as individuals. There is plenty more value in people that we can prize as precious without pointing out where we think they don’t fit in.