Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Around a week ago D told me he downloaded the recording of the musical “Spring Awakening.” He wanted me to check out a song from the musical on YouTube, which I did. I wasn’t particularly impressed or moved, even if it featured a pre-Glee Lea Michele. A few days later D told me he had listened to the whole album, and what struck him was how he found the whole musical tedious after a while. When I asked why, he said that the songs were all about teenage angsts.

I was thinking about what he said on the way home from the gym today, and a question just popped out of nowhere. What angsts do I have? And for a moment I couldn’t think of one. If there is one thing that bothers me constantly these days, it’s my weight and waistline. But it’s not an angst of mine.

Let’s define angst first. Online it is defined as:

1. A feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.
2. A feeling of persistent worry about something trivial.

Frankly I don’t really worry too deeply about the world we live in and life in general. I see the sorry state we live in and I shrug it off by telling myself, “That’s that, deal with it.” I don’t think I’m being cynical nor do I trivialize the human condition. I don’t feel hopeless about things; I just acknowledge that change may take long in coming, and the change may not necessarily be the one we want.

Urban has a more interesting take on angst versus anxiety:

Angst, often confused with anxiety, is a transcendent emotion in that it combines the unbearable anguish of life with the hopes of overcoming this seemingly impossible situation. Without the important element of hope, then the emotion is anxiety, not angst. Angst denotes the constant struggle one has with the burdens of life that weighs on the dispossessed and not knowing when the salvation will appear. For example: An airplane crashes into the side of a remote snow-covered mountain; those passengers that worry about their lives without hopes of survival only face anxiety. In contrast, those passengers who worry about their lives with hopes of survival but do not know when the rescue party will arrive face angst. 

Still, my weight issue doesn’t exactly qualify as angst because personally I don’t worry too much about it.

I guess my attitude can be summed up by the signature phrase of Alfred E. Newman, Mad Magazine’s mascot: “What, me worry?” Angst is a product of worrying, and startlingly, I have actually learned how to master worrying, instead of the other way around.

How? What helped me a lot is the purported The Serenity Prayer, which goes like this:

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

(For the complete and unabridged version by Reinhold Niebuhr [1892-1971], click on this link.)

Aside from learning how to recognize the forest for the trees, I also realized that the act of worrying is, in and of itself, actually useless when it goes beyond 30-seconds. Okay, I’ll be generous and make it one minute, in case you like a bit of wallowing. Really, it’s the wallowing in worry that’s unnecessary and useless; you just worry but you don’t get anything done. Instead of worrying, change your mindset and view your situation as a problem-solution opportunity. They say the Chinese word for crisis is the same as opportunity, so think of your problem (or crisis) as an opportunity instead.

It sounds simple, but it actually takes practice to eventually get the hang of it. And eventually, you slowly learn the art of detachment. But that’s for much later.

The downside? Well, angst is a powerful fuel for writing blog entries. Now that I worry less, I seem to also be at a loss as to what to write about. Ah, excuses, excuses.

Hmmm, maybe that is my current angst: What do I write next?


^travis said...

geez! so this turned out to be one of those self-help entries. it made me anxious? or angst-ridden? or worried? darn! i'm confused now and will shut up.

Anonymous said...

i say that prayer too, on the few times when i get very very frustrated.

rudeboy said...

"Now that I worry less, I seem to also be at a loss as to what to write about."





Truer words were never spoken, Joel.

didinskee said...

In history, a lot of wonderful things were left out of record. A time of peace doesn't make for good reading, perhaps.

This must be yours :D let's do something non-blog-worthy frivolities soon!