I don’t believe that title at all although I admit I used to (and still do, for fleeting moments), that unless a person, place, thing or event made me happy it was “negative”. (By the way, this post is closely related to my November 14, 2021 post about Bullies.) Constant, uninterrupted “happiness” is highly overrated as is a totally “safe” life.
“It is not what you get in this life that matters, it’s what you become” ~Jim Rohn).
Do you really want to become, or remain, a fragile, petulant, powerless victim?
Of course this doesn’t mean we give up avoiding potholes in the road and just barrel forward cavalierly. Nor does it mean we stop trying to protect and seek justice for those people & things we treasure. It’s all of the above. Too many discussions on the topic of negativity try to muscle it into a false dichotomy, that ______ is either “positive” or “negative”. I rarely find that true or useful.
Virtually all successful cultures agree about and have “trickster” stories and archetypes to represent “unsafe”, unsavory, boundary-pushing individuals, mythological creatures and relationships. It’s a way of dealing with the inevitable terrors (and irony) of being mortal. There is no eliminating “negative” experiences nor the individuals & situations that cause them. Suffering and death will always be with us. So there is great value in learning to deal with them. Archetypal stories, parables, fables, actual & mythological characters are ubiquitous as a result because they help us adjust our attitudes about adversity. And, in many cases, the trickster serves to protect us.
Below are several examples: The Navajo have the Trickster Coyote. There’s Joha, the Jewish trickster/fool archetype. The Turkish have Nasreddin Hodja (probably based on a real person)
Navajo Trickster Coyote
Coyote is a key figure in Navajo mythology, and of all the figures in Navajo mythology, Coyote (Mąʼii) is the most contradictory. He is a shadowy figure that can be funny or fearsome. Coyote is greedy, vain, foolish, cunning and also occasionally displays a degree of power. “In common with Tricksters generally, he serves to test the bounds of possibilities and order.”
Once a giant was terrorizing the land, and eating people, especially small children. Coyote convinced the giant that if he allowed Coyote to break his leg and then heal it by spitting on it, he would be able to run as fast as Coyote. However, this was one of Coyote’s tricks, and the giant thereafter found it much more difficult to outrun anything, even small children.
Joha, the Jewish Trickster/fool archetype: There’s the story about the Russian who asked the Jew why Jews are so smart.
“It’s because we eat herring.” “Where I could get some herring?
“I happen to have some here,””How much would it cost?” “Three rubles.”
So the Russian eats the herring and after he finishes it, he blurts out, “I could have bought that same herring in the market for two rubles!” Then the Jew responds, “You see, it’s working already.”
Turkish Nasiruddin-wise fool. (Here are some great stories, one of which is quoted below)
Everyone Is Right
Once when Nasreddin Hodja was serving as qadi, one of his neighbors came to him with a complaint against a fellow neighbor.
The Hodja listened to the charges carefully, then concluded, “Yes, dear neighbor, you are quite right.”
Then the other neighbor came to him. The Hodja listened to his defense carefully, then concluded, “Yes, dear neighbor, you are quite right.”
The Hodja’s wife, having listened in on the entire proceeding, said to him, “Husband, both men cannot be right.”
The Hodja answered, “Yes, dear wife, you are quite right.”
Shakespeare’s Court Jester in King Lear
“Who Is Not a Fool?” [“Qui non stultus?”]
—Horace (65-8 B.C.), Satires, 2.3.158″Functioning much as a chorus would in a Greek tragedy, the fool comments on events in the play, the king’s actions and acts as Lear’s conscience. As he is the only character who is able to confront Lear directly without risk of punishment, he is able to moderate the king’s behaviour.”
Shouldn’t we all welcome this kind of filter on our actions, as unwelcome as it may seem in the moment?
In sum, these goals below could be considered immature and short-sighted:
- to never experience adversity
- to be happy all the time
- to live forever
- to never be questioned nor challenged
- to be treated nicely by everyone everywhere all the time
- to have no sense of humor about one’s self. Yes! This seems to be an all-too-common aspiration.
The role of the trickster archetype is to empower you. Which is not to say we should tolerate people who truly want to cause harm.
Your Constructive Comments are Welcome!