The Last Laugh


As we emerge blinking into the bright lights of a new year, it’s worth reflecting on just how unimportant many of our everyday concerns and worries truly are. Back in Neanderthal times, some 40,000 years ago, fear and anxiety served a legitimate purpose. Our furrier forebears had to hunt for their food while at the same time avoid falling prey to the giant cave hyenas and sabre-toothed tigers who would hunt them in turn.

In modern society – save for residents of Aleppo and a number of other perilous locations – we have few immediate dangers, making our anxieties largely focused on less imminently terminal concerns – Why does my phone battery go flat so quickly? Do I really want to go out tonight? And, of course – Does my bum look big in this?

Our brains, unfortunately, haven’t evolved all that much, with our almost redundant worry gene obsessing over trivia and happenstance. Bereft of any true perils to ponder, fretting over such concerns can spiral out of control, with all true perspective lost amid an obsessive and continuous whirlwind of truly trivial terror.

If you find yourself avoiding situations for fear of almost impossible consequences or staying up all night wrangling with phantom anxieties, then it is time to face such crippling concerns head-on. You need to step back and expose your bubbling paranoia to the kind of rigorous scrutiny you have long been postponing.

Just as dark is the friend of fear – allowing shapeless phantom fiends to skulk in the shadows, the uncertainties of their shape and form endlessly accentuating the threat level – so light is the true recourse for those who want to be liberated. This does not, though, mean you have to drag your deepest demons into some floodlit field for the world to know.

No, the light you seek comes from within. You can shine it without recourse to company or ceremony. Indeed, solitude may be the ally you truly seek here. Give yourself time and space and let your fears run free, let consequence after consequence race through your mind, allowing all the very worst to happen, serially and untrammelled.

As your direst prognostications roam free – a domino-like collapse of the world you inhabit – tragedy turns to comedy, and the absurdity of your prefabricated woes restores apt perspective to your largely threat-free existence. Embrace your inner giant cave hyena. It is the punchline to the ultimate sanity-restoring gag.

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