A few months ago, I was introduced to The Joke by artist Brandi Carlile. Of course and uncannily, two clients I admire greatly for their courage in Life brought the song to my attention within a couple of days of each other. When uncanniness knocks at my door, I open it fully. In a gesture of support for Affirmations, one of the clients suggested it could be Affirmations’ anthem or theme song. Yes, I believe they are onto something. The lyrics warm my heart. The video rouses my soul. 

The Joke

You’re feeling nervous, aren’t you, boy?
With your quiet voice and impeccable style
Don’t ever let them steal your joy
And your gentle ways, to keep ’em from running wild
They can kick dirt in your face
Dress you down, and tell you that your place
Is in the middle, when they hate the way you shine
I see you tugging on your shirt
Trying to hide inside of it and hide how much it hurts


Let ’em laugh while they can
Let ’em spin, let ’em scatter in the wind
I have been to the movies, I’ve seen how it ends
And the joke’s on them

You get discouraged, don’t you, girl?
It’s your brother’s world for a while longer
You gotta dance with the devil on a river
To beat the stream
Call it living the dream, call it kicking the ladder
They come to kick dirt in your face
To call you weak and then displace you
After carrying your baby on your back across the desert
I saw your eyes behind your hair
And you’re looking tired, but you don’t look scared


The Joke is a riveting tale about differences and diversity. Furthermore, the chords flow with confidence as the lyrics inspire optimism. Yes, it’s powerful. Yes, it could be Affirmations’ Anthem.  And.  Deep down, I don’t want the joke to be on anyone when the movie ends. If the joke’s on us, they’re right. If the joke’s on them, we’re right. 

(For Matrix Trilogy Fans, the Merovingian espoused one universal Truth. Causality. Action, reaction and cause, effect. When the joke isn’t on anyone, there’s a different truth than causality.)

As far back as I can recall, I’ve struggled to feel entertained by comedians. When I receive comedy, I hear so much anger in the jokes. Sometimes, the jokes point a finger toward our Environment with the aim of highlighting injustices in the world. Sometimes, the jokes point a finger toward Self with the aim of showcasing an isecurity festering within the heart, mind, or soul of the comedian. Sometimes, the jokes point a finger at human beings in the crowd with the aim of inciting reactions the comedian can use as his entertainment. 

Going further, I sense various forms of anger within the jokes. The jokes project anger externally, internally, or externally-internally for the purpose of making people laugh and/or feel surprised (reaction as the effect). In the song, Brandi races through the lyrics, “You gotta dance with the devil on a river to beat the stream. Call it living the dream…” Beautifully, the lyrics are suggestive of how human beings are oftentimes forced to sacrifice who they are and distance Self from Self just to survive. Too much sacrificing and too much distancing cause human beings to hide, react, judge, ridicule, etc. 

As the previous song verse extends, Brandi’s voice softens/fades as she sings “call it kicking the ladder.” Sometimes, other human beings kick our ladder. Sometimes, we kick our own ladder. Sometimes, we act as though other human beings kick our ladder when we’re the one responsible for kicking it. Each is an act of anger. Each carries told and untold stories about injustice and suffering.

As the last sentenced was typed, my thoughts wanted to delve more deeply into the psychology of hierarchy, competition, injustice, shame, anger, etc. Instead, I paused. I want to take a break from the depths of the psyche and give Self permission to release the need to dive too deeply right now. I want to surrender the need to express comprehensively. I want to release my desires to extend and expand fully on anger. I want to say, “I don’t know.” In fact, last week was Suicide Awareness Week. A college counseling center director who was known for his work on suicide prevention and resilience committed suicide during Suicide Prevention Week. 

I don’t know displays a truth and a reality. For ‘I don’t know’ reasons, human beings are becoming more and more Self-righteous. Instead of fighting against Self-righteousness or trying to understand the depths of Self-righteousness, I want to pause and simply say, “I don’t want the joke to be on anyone.” I don’t want to degrade or dehumanize the comedians or anyone who projects anger into the world. I want to embrace the spirit behind the musical artistry of The Joke without wanting anyone to be the joke. I want to move toward all human beings. On the eve of Suicide Prevention Week, I want to rest and rejuvenate. I want to surrender to Life beyond anger, power, Self-righteousness, and winning. 

In the spirit of rejuvenating, I’ll tell you the reason I appreciate comedians and how I’ve learned, for the first time in my Life, to feel entertained by various comedians and receive comedy without absorbing various forms of anger. Many comedians are artists with special talents and skills. I respect comedians’ capacities to sense real, perceived, and off-the-wall jokes that cause a reaction in others. I respect the artistry that goes into the rhythm, cadence, and timing of the jokes. I respect their courage to be on stage. I receive the nuances and subtleties of their artistic movements while smiling authentically. I taste the hand gestures that signal transitions, sniff the fear that clues me into their courage, hear the skillful pauses and moments of silence, touch their drive to matter in this world, and see aspects of their untold stories. 

I smile for reasons that transcend the projections of anger or making the joke about something else. I smile because I found a way, my honest way, to stand in the midst of polarity and divisiveness. Clarity reverberates throughout my Being-ness. Clarity forces me to smile. Clarity warms my heart and allows me to feel rejuvenated. Clarity is the gift. The Joke and comedians offer artistic expression, and it spawned into the gift of clarity where no fighting is needed and anger isn’t necessary. With clarity, human beings don’t need the illusion of living the dream or won’t feel compelled to kick ladders.

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