Desolation Lookout, where Jack Kerouac spent two months alone
According to author Joyce Johnson, her one-time lover, Jack Kerouac, viewed the world with sardonic detachment.
I saw some of myself when I read that phrase. Yeah, sardonic detachment.
Now, there’s some disagreement over what, exactly, it means to be sardonic. In the US, where wholesome positivity is a religion (see, I’m being sardonic), it has a dark connotation: disdainful, bitter, sneering, sarcastic. I see it more like the British, where sardonic is characterized as irony, mockery or derision. (The UK might be the capital of the sardonic attitude, if it isn’t France.)
To me, sardony (let’s pretend that’s a word) is the natural byproduct of not having one’s head up one’s ass, and of valuing truly worthwhile things. There’s so much in the world that deserves derision, so much silliness and stupidity expecting to be taken seriously. The Kardashians, for example.
I try to wrap my mockery in humor. Ridicule the ridiculous with more ridiculousness. Laugh about the laughable. Including myself.
Just as we can’t see the forest for the trees, it’s hard to spot the mock-worthy when you’re a participant in it. That’s where detachment comes into play.
The mental health profession considers detachment a problem, and it can be if it keeps you from functioning and having a good life. But sometimes detachment is the only way to remain mentally healthy and happy. Ask any introvert. (Me, for example.)
When you’re an outside observer it’s easier to measure the craziness against your values. We sardonic people do have values. We’re not nihilists. We’re simply selective.
I haven’t just mentally detached. I’m part of that minority who’ve physically detached as well. Less exposure to society means less reason to critique, which makes me happier. See, ignorance is bliss.