I’ve been asking this question a lot lately. Most people laugh it off, probably turning me into the proverbial village idiot since I put the smile on their face, but no answer seems to be forthcoming. It was never intended to be a rhetorical question. At many points in my life I found myself abandoning that which was dear to me in favour of assisting others to achieve that which was dear to them. My philosophy then, which still influences my choices now, is that my life was never about me but rather about those around me. It’s a sound philosophy, but only if everyone subscribes to it.
The reality is, most don’t. The harsher reality is that my ego is probably the most unrelenting force I’ve ever had to deal with. So after going through endless cycles of hoping for that shared subscription, which in fact was a veiled desire for reciprocation, I would reach my tolerance levels of patience and then binge on a self-indulgent mission of getting what I believed was due. It was often justified, but nonetheless destructive. With each cycle though, I found my tolerance increasing and my expectations decreasing. But the question remained unanswered.
The same question can be asked of a physician. Who is the physician of the village physician, or the care giver of the care giver? My point is that we’re all so focused on receiving the services and care from so many around us, that we often forget to consider what their needs are, especially when their needs are not our primary responsibility. The generous amongst us are the most abused. It’s a strange dichotomy though, because it implies that the more abused we are the more beautiful our souls. At least from the outside looking in.
Unfortunately, the truth is not as pretty. The truth is closer to the fact that most beautiful people appear that way because they have abandoned their desires for themselves, at least within the context of what they desire from others, and they’ve filled that vacancy with seeking fulfilment and purpose in contributing towards the ease of the lives of those around them, not because they are expected to, but because they don’t want others to experience the same void that exists within their lives. I think the most beautiful smiles on the faces of dying people are not because they feel fulfilled but because they feel relieved that the struggle is finally over.
I think those smiles say more about their willingness to leave behind what others still cling to than it does about feeling contentment about what they’ve achieved. I think those smiles lie, but the ones around them take comfort in it nonetheless, because that is what people do around apparently beautiful souls. They take comfort from them more than they give comfort to them. After all, a soul that appears to be beautiful cannot possibly be in need of the comforting from the pain that the overtly troubled souls require. It is then no wonder at all that the most forgotten are often the most tender. They’re the ones that demand less, give more, and expect little.
I guess the answer then would be that no one puts a smile on the face of the village idiot. The village idiot has no needs because they appear to be out of touch with reality. We are inclined to believe that they lack any sense of the suffering and the pain of others which is why they always find a reason to smile, or to make others smile. Because as long as they have tears of laughter on their faces, no one will see the tears of loss or yearning that hides behind that beautiful smile. Village idiots are like the air we breathe. They’re taken for granted when they’re there, lamented for a short while when they’re gone, and quickly replaced when an alternate source is found.
The problem is, we’re almost all village idiots waiting for someone to put a smile on our faces. If we weren’t, there wouldn’t be so much anger and bitterness in this world. Only a small group of idiots have realised that waiting for such an effort from others is an exercise in futility. While we’re waiting for others to care, we lose sight of the fact that they are also waiting for us to care, especially when we suspend our compassion in protest of the absence of their awareness of our needs. If ever there was a polarised state of being, this would be it. Neutrality is not possible, let alone an option. You either contribute or you consume, doing nothing denies another what is their dues, or their needs, in the same way that their inaction denies you of yours.