In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, she writes about trusting the universe. If we look at our lives with confidence, then the days will be brimming with laughter and joy. If all we see is misery, then we will trudge through the suffering with dark clouds and tears.
I was especially drawn to the chapters on martyr vs. trickster. Gilbert does not believe in the whole tortured artist myth. Pain does not create better art. Pain just creates more pain. A martyr walks through life with rigid views and solemn words. Everything the martyr does is self-sacrificing. A martyr does not compromise. A martyr sees his life as one long open wound. A trickster skips through his days whistling an off-key tune. A trickster has trust in his gifts. He frolics and bluffs his way through bumpy roads. He may be a swindler, but he trusts the universe to come through for him.
Gilbert writes, “The trickster trusts the universe. He trusts in the its chaotic, lawless, ever-fascinating ways – and for this reason, he does not suffer from undue anxiety. He trusts that the universe is in constant play and, specifically, that it wants to play with him. Martyr = Sir Thomas More. Trickster = Bugs Bunny.”
The trickster metaphor reminded me of Harry Anderson’s reoccurring character on Cheers. Harry “The Hat” is a con man with a perpetual grin on his face. He picks pockets and steals money from the patrons, but he considers himself to be a winner. That is how he looks at life. Everything is fun. The rest of the bar patrons, with the exceptions of Coach and Woody, are martyrs. They spend their lives in a bar, complaining about their troubles, and never really doing anything substantial to change. Yes, we laugh, but we are laughing at them – the lovable losers of Cheers. After Harry’s final con, he explains it to the gang:
“Face it, you’re a bunch of losers. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s your nature, you know. It’s the way God made you. You’re part of his master plan. If it weren’t for you guys, how would we know who the winners were?
Harry sees himself as a winner. He may be a trickster, but he believes in his own cons.
But, even if you have cast yourself as a martyr, you can still take on the role of trickster. You can choose to toss that ball out into the universe and know it will come back. You can live your life with fun and zeal instead of being weighed down by rigid rules, torment, guilt, and doubt. Or as Rumi says, “Unfold your own myth.”
So beginning today I am walking confidently into the role of trickster. I will look at my life and my writing with unbridled confidence. Am I Steinbeck? Hell, no, but no one is. I will trip over my words and have fun with them. I’m going to submit pieces with blind confidence, and work on stories that I may be the only one to read. And let’s face it, Bugs Bunny forever eludes Elmer Fudd’s clutches with his witty banter and clever machinations. Even though he is constantly pursued by a bumbling hunter, he lives his life with verve. And Bugs even got to play basketball with Michael Jordan! Now who wouldn’t want to be Bugs Bunny?
“What’s up, Doc?”