Happiness and The Joker

Well, it’s official — THE blockbuster movie of Summer 2008 is The Dark Knight, the new Batman installment starring Heath Ledger as the nihilistic bad guy, the Joker. I finally went to see it on Friday evening.
I don’t evaluate movies based on their Academy Award potential. My standards are: did I have a good time?, and will I recommend it to others? To both, a resounding YES. I had a blast! It is dark, yes. It is chilling at times. The Joker here is a nihilistic bad guy with nothing even resembling a conscience — he is REALLY evil!
He is also scarred. Oh, I’m not talking about the apparent emotional baggage, but the actual physical scarring. He gives different accounts of how it happened, but bottom line is this: at a point in his childhood, his cheeks were sliced open from both corners of his mouth to create an enormous and hideous grin. While the cheeks are healed the scar remains, and he paints the entire scar — down one cheek, across his lips, and up the other cheek — with red.
In one of his stories, he was trying to cheer up his mother, who had ceased to smile. In that version, he took a razor and sliced open his own face in a desperate attempt to increase the size of his smile, hoping it would encourage his mother to also smile.
And I thought, Wow, except for the razor blade part, how many of us do that same sort of thing? We paste on a HUGE smile, in the hopes of encouraging others. But as the Joker learned, it’s not about the facial expression of smiling — it’s about the feeling that goes with it. The Joker enlarged his grin out of fear and desperation, so that’s all his mother picked up from him. In real life, emotions are contagious. A smile based on fear inspires fear. Only a smile based on kindness, compassion, empathy, happiness (or something related) will inspire another person to feel better.
If you’re going to paste on a smile, smile first with your heart. Your face will follow.

2 thoughts on “Happiness and The Joker”

  1. Smile first with your heart…LOVE that. What a nice distinction and reminds me of ‘Mastery’ where he describes, “diciphering the complex code of facial expressions.” You’ve done it here with just a few words. Thanks Jim, Herby

  2. Herby, I appreciate the comparison to Mastery. Just as George Leonard advocates PRACTICE as the path to mastery, so too I advocate that the practice of happiness leads to… well, more experience of happiness. It’s an inside job! J


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