Lessons From…The Killing Joke

I was listening to the Nerdist Comics Panel today, and it got me thinking about some of the great comics I have read in the past. Among the many I remember, and thankfully own, Alan Moore’s seminal Batman story, The Killing Joke. immediately came to mind. If you haven’t read this comic, go out and find it. It is just fucking amazing and easily one of the medium’s best works. Seriously, go to a comic book shop and buy it or, if a bit strapped for cash, see if your local library has a copy. Really, just visit your local library more often. They provide an invaluable service and both deserve and need your patronage. (Alright, rant over)

So, without giving away any spoilers, let’s discuss The Killing Joke.

The Joker's a special type of crazy and few do him better than Moore.

The Joker’s a special type of crazy and few do him better than Moore.

Amidst the violence and depravity of the graphic novel is one central question: what is the difference between the Joker and everyone else? Why is he such a deranged lunatic with an incredible aptitude for murder and mayhem?

As far as the Joker is concerned, he is simply the result of one bad day:

one bad day

 

This idea of “one bad day” fascinates me. Ultimately, the Joker is full of shit, but what if that is really all it took to push someone over the edge into madness? What if the difference between sanity and lunacy is just one bad day?

People discuss this notion of one single moment that changed their lives or how one simple decision had such a major impact and completely turned things around. While this idea has a romantic, stoic appeal, it really is not at all factual or real. The truth is that even though it seems like there was one integral, life changing moment that changed everything, in reality, there were a series of small decisions and choices that led to that moment and even more after that made the most of whatever choice was made during that moment.

Even if you are fortunate enough, after hard work and effort, to have a “one day” situation, it is only from the experience of the work and effort that came before it that you will be even remotely ready to deal with that circumstance. This brings us to today’s lesson.

There is no such thing as “one bad day.” We are more than single moments, memories, or decisions. We are amalgamations of every moment, every memory, every choice, and every reaction to each of life’s events. This is both liberating and daunting but knowing this means that it is never too late for anything nor should a mistake or misstep mean the end. As cliche and corny as it may sound, everything really is a step at a time.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

P.S. I’ll also leave this because it is just worth viewing:

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