Sunday’s Wisdom #188: For Free?

“If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”
– The Joker, The Dark Knight

On the one hand, this is actually a pretty smart piece of advice, and one which we bloggers, who pour countless amounts of time and effort into our most excellent writing, largely ignore. 😛 But, on the other hand, it’s the advice of one of the most famous and infamous madmen in superhero history, so I suppose we don’t need to feel too badly about that, eh? 😉

I absolutely love Dark Knight, in no small part due to Heath Ledger’s legendary performance as the Joker. Pitted against Christian Bale’s Batman, the two represented what may be the oldest and most elemental conflict in history: one force tries to make people worse by convincing them to succumb to their most base selfishness, and anther force tries to inspire people to become better with an example of ultimate selflessness. It was fantastic and nuanced on so many levels.

This quote is really just there and gone in an instant, but I’m sure essays could be written on its significance to the theme, plot, and texture of the movie. On the surface, it’s just something the Joker says to get the mob to pay him for killing Batman, but there’s always more to what the Joker says and does and wants. He appeals to financial greed because the lords of the criminal underground will believe it, because it’s what drives them. That’s how he suckers them into a position where they’re all destroyed and he can take over to rain more madness down on the city. The selfishness they thrive on consumes them all. And you know what none of them probably ever did? Anything for free.

In contrast, I note that kindness is always something done without regard for reward, and there is no real happiness without kindness. I mean, I’m sure Ebeneezer Scrooge (very different story, I know) never failed to charge people for his services, but he spent most of his life in misery. Then he learned about love and kindness and all that stuff, and he was happy for the rest of his life.

In this movie, Harvey Dent was happiest when he was in service to others, and at his worst when he was out for only what he wanted for himself.

So, while Joker’s quote is sound financial advice, to charge people for your services when you perform that service better than others (and there is nothing wrong with making an honest dollar for yourself), it’s obviously not universally applicable. 😉

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