Christy Wampole recently wrote an op-ed for the NY Times titled “How To Live Without Irony”.
True enough. We can all hide behind irony, we can choose to make fun of things rather than treat them with sincerity, we can choose to shield ourselves a little behind laughter. I agree that “irony is the most self-defensive mode”, that, when taken to an extreme, “it bespeaks cultural numbness, resignation and defeat.”
The piece was so thought-provoking that I posted it on Twitter. Minutes later I got the reply, “When you have health stuff going on, living ironically seems frivolous and a bit pathetic.”
I tried to write back but I couldn’t find quite the right words. As much as I loved the sentiment, a part of me disagreed. Irony and sarcasm can be the basis for humour and, perhaps because I’m English, I find something deeply appealing about self-deprecation. When my Godmother was dying from lung cancer and hooked up to a million tubes in her hospital bed, she was still the one with the best one-liners, the sharpest wit and the most stomach-aching jokes. She was, almost always, making fun of herself. I’ve never met anyone more loved.
I don’t agree that we have to take ourselves seriously every moment of every day. I think that there can be room for both sincerity and sarcasm. I don’t criticize myself, or anyone else, for using irony to make sense of the world.
And yet, I do think that it can be easier to treat everything ironically. I think it takes courage to be honest, to be unabashedly passionate and fully seen.
What’s your take on irony?