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Posted on Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Dave!Schadenfreude, which is often translated in American English to mean "shameful joy," is a delicious German word used to describe a situation where somebody finds pleasure in the misfortune of others. In Buddhism this concept is kind of horrific, which is probably why their word Mudita or "joy" is often seen as Schadenfreude's polar opposite. Mudita is achieved by finding pleasure in the happiness and well-being of others. As somebody who strives to apply Buddhist ideals to everyday life, it's my goal to limit Schadenfreude as much as I can, while striving for Mudita whenever possible.

But sometimes you just can't help it.

Today as I was driving back from Seattle, I turned off I-90 at Cle-Elum so I could connect with Highway 97 and go home. These roads are single-lane, which can be frustrating. Because about ten minutes later, some asshole comes roaring up behind me and was grinding on my bumper even though I was over the speed limit by 5 miles per hour. Had I been under the speed limit, I'd understand his aggressive driving because I'd deserve it. But I wasn't, so his douchebaggery was uncalled for. My first reaction was to slam on my brakes and slow down so he'd back off... but he didn't. This just seemed to make him more anxious. Which just encouraged me to slow down even further, because I can be a total asshole too.

Eventually he got to a spot where he could pass me, and went zooming by at spectacular speed. After fuming with rage for a few minutes, I promptly forgot about the jerkwad because life is too short.

Until I ran across him 20 minutes later skidded off the road.

Bwah ha ha!

I would have stopped to offer help, but somebody with a truck already had. This was too bad, because I'd love to have been the one who pulled up and asked "Are you having some trouble?" And yet... even though in my head I would be laughing my ass off, I don't think that this could be considered the "shameful joy" of Schadenfreude because I really would have helped him out if I could. Maybe that would be considered "righteous joy" or "Gerechterfreude" if you will.

Anyway, not long after that hot mess, an oncoming car flashed their lights at me. This is usually a warning that a police car is up ahead laying a trap, and I should watch my speed. I definitely appreciated the warning (thanks, man!), but I was already fine because I've been trying really hard not to speed excessively. With budget cutbacks and such, the cops have been issuing a staggering number of tickets lately for even tiny infractions. I can only guess that this is to generate income and justify their not being laid off or something.

But it wasn't the police. It was four deer down by the road having lunch!

Deer make regular appearances here, so you always have to be careful, but I have never seen four of them together like that. I slowed down and gave them a wide berth in case one of them suddenly decided to bolt across the road, but they walked off into the bushes as I approached.

And there was my moment of Mudita... feeling joy that the deer wandered away unharmed and happy.

Most likely because karma ran that stupid asshole right off the road before he could come along and plow over them.

"Gerechterfreude" totally needs to be a word.

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  1. *lynne* says:

    This is the first time I’ve come across the term Mudita… and in it goes into potential baby names, LoL (no we’re not preggers, but I’m always on the look out for great names!)

    I vote YES to making “Gerechterfreude” a word 🙂

  2. pocketct says:

    I was listening to a TED talk on happiness and the speaker said that we didn’t have a word for finding happiness in another’s joy. I tried to the of one to coin with no success. I am glad that one already exists and I don’t have to work to start a new word.

    Here is the talk – you might like it.

  3. Steve in NH says:

    “Schadenfreude” is the greatest word German has. I cannot believe there is no English word for this. I remember when I first heard it I was heartened that I wasn’t the only nasty asshole in the world! “Gerechterfreude” is a nice thought but not very German. Bwah ha ha.

  4. Nat says:

    I love this.

  5. shari says:

    I’d like a “Gerechterfreude” button to add to my lanyard, please.

  6. Sarah says:

    I love seeing deer. (I didn’t really see much wildlife in California, unless you count cows.) I always get excited and shout, “DEER!” I’m sure Vahid loves driving anywhere with me.

  7. Sybil Law says:

    LOVE this story!!

  8. delmer says:

    Years ago a buddy and I got passed by someone driving too fast on heavily-snow-encrusted roads. We caught up to him a short time later where he’d slid down an embankment. He’d already gotten out of the car so we were denied our chance to lend a hand… or yell “neener neener” at him.

  9. RW says:

    I don’t know. If we say karma ruined the guy’s day and that saved Bambi I don’t know what we say if he went through and killed them except he’s an asshole but does Bambi have karma… yes I think too much… what?

  10. claire says:

    I think Liz Lemon could get down with Gerechterfreude.

    Very glad the deer wandered back into the woods. I see them by the highway sometimes which can get the nerves up when it’s dangerous to slow down significantly.

  11. i love, love, love when i realize that something happened to prevent something else from happening. you slowing the guy down, him racing off and losing control before he could hurt the deer. way cool.
    (i also love that you recognize how fantastic the entire situation was.)

  12. whitenoise says:

    great story 🙂

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