14
Jun
09

Schadenfreude

(First published in June 2008)

Schadenfreude. From the German words Schaden and Freude, damage and joy. It means to take spiteful, malicious delight in the misfortune of others. We used to dismiss this as simply an ugly side of human nature, but it is much, much more than that. Recently a Stanford professor actually captured Schadenfreude on a brain scan. It’s a physiological medical phenomenon. When we see others fall it sometimes causes a chemical to be released in the dorsal striatum of the brain which actually causes us to feel pleasure.

That was a line from a TV show script. I did not put them inside quotation marks because I’m trying to practice speaking them as if they’re my own, or at least to imitate how the show’s character did it. Someone said that the English translation of Schadenfreude is “gloating”. Merriam-Webster defines gloating as “to observe or think about something with triumphant and often malicious satisfaction, gratification, or delight; <to gloat over an enemy’s misfortune>.” On the other hand, Schadenfreude is defined asenjoyment obtained from the troubles of others”.
Hmmm…the two words seem so synonymous to each other and yet there is this very trivial nuance. Maybe Schadenfreude is the reason why we gloat. Schadenfreude is the feeling while gloating is the result of that feeling. It’s like saying, “I am gloating at you because I am overwhelmed with Schadenfreude at your misfortune.” For this reason I would prefer not to substitute the word gloating for Schadenfreude. But actually my real reason is that Schadenfreude sounds so much more sophisticated than “gloating”. Don’t you want to say it? Schadenfreude \’shä-dən-froi-də\.

It’s another three-day weekend. Perhaps this is one thing I like about GMA, her practicality. Moving non-religious holidays to the nearest Monday. Although I have heard protests that we are losing the significance of the Holiday – Independence Day in today’s case – those who did protest have not yet tried working away from home. Far enough that coming home means spending a lot of fare money or travel time or both, that you want to make the most of your visit. Of course, a three-day visit beats a two-day visit every time, except for those visiting their in-laws.

Thank you GMA for three-day weekends. But as for all the other things, I would not be surprised if for many people it would be the ultimate Schadenfreude to see you and your husband fall.

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Attempts at uncovering the underlying simplicity beneath apparently complex concepts as well as the core complexity within seemingly straightforward issues

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