By Gary Z McGee
“Everything is a mask that is not death.” ~Emil Cioran
The Good Joker might seem like a bit of a misnomer. There’s so much evil inherent in the fictional name Joker that to put the word “good” in front of it is a blatant oxymoron.
But that’s exactly the point of the Good Joker concept. Where THE Joker was a psychopathic criminal who got off on violence and personified evil by attempting to invert goodness through his own madness, the Good Joker is an empathic Heyoka who keeps the will to humor ahead of the will to power lest power corrupt.
The fictional Joker’s problem is that he has his wishbone where his backbone should be. He wishes the world was always happy and carefree and always treated him right. But instead of treating the world right, he tries to force the world to meet his wishes. Instead of acting with the authentic carefree attitude that he portrays, he pretentiously and violently jams it down everyone’s throat. He forces his version of happiness, his own ideal of moral truth, onto everyone else without their consent.
The forcing of any “truth” onto anyone without their consent is immoral. That is the heart of the Joker’s evil nature. Instead of giving the people the freedom to discern truth from untruth, he vainly attempts to force his version of truth onto them. Thus, he creates chaos, violence, and psychopathic rage out of his irrational need to control everything.
The Good Joker, on the other hand, has his backbone where it should be. He is an archetype for chaotic goodness, an amoral agent par excellence. He inverts evil into amoral courage. He uses humor to subvert hubris. He uses existential laughter to turn the tables on nihilism.
The Good Joker can be anyone. For the Good Joker is an archetype for chaotic good.
The Good Joker uses chaos as a tool for higher order:
“Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony,” ~Heraclitus
Where the Joker uses chaos to create disorder, the Good Joker uses chaos to create higher order. Higher order cannot be achieved without a little strategic disorder mixed in to upset the current order. That’s where the Good Joker comes in.
When an integrated shadow meets an integrated trickster within an individuated human, the Good Joker is born.
The shadow must be integrated so that a sacred union of opposites can be self-actualized, and courageous humor can manifest. The trickster must be integrated so that humor remains ahead of hubris and curiosity remains the cure for certainty. The shadow is vital for fierceness and courage. The trickster is vital for curiosity and humility. Both are necessary to create the personified force of nature that is the Good Joker.
With a smile on his face and laughter in his throat, he is lighthearted chaos amidst heavyhearted order. He sees the sick society for what it is and realizes that he must become unwanted medicine. He sees how healing must first come from an uncomfortable upheaval of that which is exacerbating the sickness, and second from a courageous example of primal health and vitality which may seem amoral to the goody-two-shoes society.
Outflanked by the blinding light of culture, the Good Joker has the wherewithal to shine his blacklight onto the scene. He exposes the stains of culture. He reveals the sickness of society. He is determined to be a nonviolent monkey-wrench in the machine that’s destroying the world.
As a clown, The Good Joker represents humor and courageous freedom in the face of seriousness and status-quo-junkie cowardice. But he also has the freedom to be a wrinkle in the times, a syzygy in the zeitgeist. He realizes that true courage requires honest intimacy with both chaos and order. It requires freedom balanced with discipline and a good sense of humor.
The Good Joker is an ego/faith demolitions expert:
“The need for certainty is the greatest disease the mind faces.” ~Robert Greene
Freedom is paramount, and the Good Joker’s clown face and radical smile proves this. He is free to be a force of nature first and a person second. Free to live with purpose, on purpose. Free to re-condition cultural conditioning. Free to trump comfort and security with a leap of courage into adventure. Free to connect the dots and think outside the box. Free to always question, to always be open, and to always be flexible. Free to free the world into further freedom.
Free from extremes, free from being pigeonholed, or forced to fit into a mold, or coerced into fitting into a cul-de-sac of beliefs and delusions, the Good Joker is free to use futility as fuel for living life well. He is free to transform absurdity into Absolution, and to transform it all into high art.
The Good Joker is a psychosocial artist who is free to laugh in the face of all authority: cops, heroes, Bat Man, the Joker, the devil, even God itself. Fuck them all if they can’t laugh back. The joke is on them. The joke is on him too, but the crucial difference is that he has the capacity to authentically laugh back.
The Good Joker turns the tables on the Cosmic Joke by laughing at the fact that he will always be the butt end of it, but then he surfs the crushing wave of it, riding its crest into a healthy detachment that sees the human condition for what it is: scared, confused, and terribly curious.
The Good Joker honors fear by transforming it into fuel for living life well. He honors confusion by transforming it into circumspection which keeps him keen and sharp on the quest for truth. He honors curiosity by doubling down on it and keeping it always ahead of certainty.
If it’s true, as Oscar Wilde said, that, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth,” then that’s how you know the Good Joker is telling you the truth. From behind his mask, he informs you of a deeply profound and uncomfortable truth: that we are masks all the way down perceiving delusions all the way up. Therefore, the Truth Quest must always remain ahead of the “truth” lest a particular mask or delusion attempt to hijack Truth and thus bring an end to the Truth Quest.
Most of all, the Good Joker is free to don, discard, and burn all masks. Even the clown mask if need be. Especially the clown mask. Because even the clown mask risks being blindsided by its false interpretation (delusion) of truth.
As Ursula K. Le Guin surmised, “The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.”
Indeed. Therefore, the most prominent role of the Good Joker is to bring his integrated shadow/trickster dynamic to the fore and act in such a way that the Infinite Game of life remains a possibility, often despite, and even in spite of, any and all finite games desperately playing themselves out in the all-too-comfortable yet sick society.
About the Author:
Gary Z McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide-awake view of the modern world.
This article (The Good Joker) was originally created and published by Self-inflicted Philosophy and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary Z McGee and self-inflictedphilosophy.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.