Posted on April 27th, 2010
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.