Falling – everyone does it, some more than others. Falling is a central theme of teaching any person about hard work and perseverance. We’ve all heard this a thousand times. Everyone knows that falling is no big deal, as long as we pick ourselves up afterward. Right? Well, not really. I’d like to argue that not everyone practices this mundane and cliché ideology, and society as a whole, certainly doesn’t encourage it.
Balancing is a huge part of effectively existing. We carry what we need and drop what we don’t – both physically and emotionally. If it’s not important, we rid ourselves of it – at least ideally we do. If someone falls, a slew of negative conclusions can easily be made. When does someone fall? When they lose their balance – when they seemingly can’t handle their load. As soon as someone falls, they become low and vulnerable. They let go of the reigns of their life and on some level, they lose control of themselves. We make decisions like this about others all the time, whether it’s a conscious response or not.
We’ve all tripped in public, only to get back up as quickly as humanly possible. We look both ways, we check behind us, we avert all eye contact, praying to some infinite being that nobody saw. People don’t like falling down, no matter how stigmatized the “getting up” part may be. It isn’t okay to fall, it isn’t normal to fall – for if it were, would anyone truly be laughing?
However, it’s close to impossible not to laugh when someone falls – there’s even a whole internet culture that revolves around this concept. People derive infinite pleasure from watching and re-watching other people wipe out, drop things, slip, and get hurt. But what’s so funny? Why is watching other people fall so darn entertaining? There’s something inherently and undeniably hilarious about it. Are people really innately cruel and hostile, and if not, what are we laughing for? (Although these examples speak of falling in a physical way, of course, we can think of them spiritually as well. Falling in physical terms is the same as failing in emotional terms.)
We are our own toughest critics. Our harsh inside voices are powerful and isolating. Alone, we grapple with this primitive, innate response that we cannot seem to kick. We each possess a strong, judgmental value, forcing us to ask, “What’s wrong with me?” When someone else falls, the watcher attains a cathartic experience which is expressed through laughter. We project our harshness and insecurities on to others – subconsciously of course. The enjoyment comes from the lack of pressure; we see the failure of others and build up our own egos by default. We allow ourselves to recognize how flawed we are, and slowly, we start to accept how okay that is.
As tiny children we are held close to our mothers – we are comforted and supported by closeness. We are balanced and stabilized by an outside factor. Once separated from that source, we are forced to take risks and locate our own sense of balance. Thus, one may even say that falling is completely unnatural. It’s terrifying and lonely; the ultimate admittance that we don’t have all the control we think we do. The only thing that makes falling okay is accepting this. Sometimes it’s important to stand on one foot and challenge gravity, thus questioning all we assume to be natural.