Let’s Talk About OY
Difficult, divisive, struggle filled, tragic, devastating, dark… these are now the descriptions we use to describe our world, our society, and our lives, on a daily basis. Political divisiveness, social upheaval, economic struggle, climate disasters, health crisis’…all summed up in Yiddish by two little letters, OY!
Welcome to a world filled with Oy…
Oy our world is broken!
Oy our society is battered!
Oy our lives are bruised!
Oy, Oy, Oy!!!!
We all know this. We all feel it. However, make no mistake about it, this is not all that there is. This is not the entirety of our life. This is not a complete snapshot of our reality. There is still so much that is good, so much joy, and so much that is right with our world.
We know this, however, like many things these days, we just don’t feel comfortable saying it, even admitting it. To state this publicly even feels a bit blasphemous. Does it make me insensitive to be having a good time while others are suffering? Does it mean that I’m callous for feeling so grateful or experiencing good fortune at a time like this? Am I a bad person for feeling happy?
The answer is no, absolutely not!
Discovering JOY, Diminishing OY
Feeling grateful, joyful or laughing during a time when others are struggling, suffering, even dying, does not make you a bad person (unless of course you do so at their expense or rub it in their face). Simply put, your joy does not exacerbate someone else’s Oy. If anything, it diminishes it.
Here’s the proof.
Dr. Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and father of Logotherapy, faced this very issue while he was in the Holocaust. Stripped of his possessions, ripped from his profession, torn from his community, his wife and family murdered in front of him, and imprisoned in concentration camp after concentration camp, he writes:
To find humor in the grimmest of circumstances is not only a survival tool but a supreme act of creativity and an assertion of the most unassailable personal liberty.
Dr. Frankl believed deeply that it was not only acceptable to find joy, beauty and humor in the wretchedness of the camps; it was an imperative to do so. He continues:
I practically trained a friend of mine who worked next to me on the building site to develop a sense of humor. I suggested to him that we would promise each other to invent at least one amusing story daily, about some incident that could happen one day after our liberation.
Dr. Frankl knew that discovering beauty in the misery was not only a pathway to better physical and mental health, it was pathway to liberation. To allow the darkness to dominate what we see or don’t see, or missing out on the beauty and blessings all around us because of the darkness, is a tragedy upon a tragedy. In that moment we not only disappear in the darkness of external suffering, worse yet we diminish the divinity within us.
Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation. It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.
To Dr. Frankl, humor was more than a mere feeling, or luxury to be had during times of comfort and ease. For Frankl, humor was understood to literally be a pathway, perhaps the pathway, to our highest self, our soul, what he termed the noetic, or as we might call it, the Divine!
Our Mission: Transforming OY
Our mission, according to Dr. Frankl, is to rise up from the ashes, shatter the darkness, and defy its devastation through choosing to take hold of the light – the light of gratitude, beauty, blessings, and most of all, humor, laughter and joy!
To seek these things, to experience these things, and to feel these things does not make you insensitive, callous or cruel. On the contrary, it transforms you into a source of light for those around you, for your community, within our society and in a world that desperately needs your light.
Yes, be thoughtful, gracious and kind when you are standing in the light of your blessings while others are bowed low in the curse of their darkness. However, you do not serve anyone by denying yourself light. You want to help them? You want to serve those who are suffering? You want to illuminate a darkened word? Then seek the light, embrace the light and share the light through defying the OY and embracing the JOY!