"A person without a sense of humor ...
...is like a wagon without springs. It's jolted by every pebble on the road." ~Henry Ward Beecher
Coming up on Friday and Saturday Night, May 17 and 18, will be the Rowayton Civic Association's Comedy Night. It will be the 24th such event in our community, thanks to our friend Craig Spinney, who's son Sean went to Five Mile River Nursery School. The very first Comedy Night was to have featured A. Whitney Brown, and was held in the community room at the Community Center as a benefit for the Rowayton PTA. Craig played rock music on his guitar, and we all had a fine time talking to one another, because our feature act never arrived. We nevertheless laughed and enjoyed ourselves dancing and telling our own jokes. The following year we were not disappointed: Lewis Black came and made our sides ache with laughter as he imitated our then President Clinton not knowing what "the definition of IS is..."
Comedy has always been one of my favorite "talking points." I believe Comedy is the great healer of all tragedies, and as Mark Twain said, "Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand," meaning that every evil known to man, can be taken down with humor. For peace to reign, in fact, we must all enter the state of pure laughter, and let it awaken us to ourselves, but better. For where can peace begin but in ourselves? And how can we live in our own skins unless we are able to lighten up and not take ourselves too seriously.
I have always been a big proponent of humor as an important development in children's higher order thinking as well. Being able to discern incongruities, understand puns, being able to enter into the joy of laughter in relationship, are foundational skills for problem-solving, literacy, and emotional stability and resiliency.
It is the quality of resiliency that Henry Ward Beecher is speaking of in the quote above. Life is a bumpy ride on a twisty path, and we need to be able to rise above ourselves in humor in order to enjoy this thrill ride of our human experience.
In "The Sickness Unto Death" Søren Kierkegaard describes the despairing man as unable to see himself getting up, after he's fallen. Humor is that ability not to despair after going for that slippy trip on the banana peel, laughing, getting up, shaking it off, and starting over.
If we come running every time our children take a spill and try to prevent their tears, we will never allow them the opportunity to get up again, to learn ways to comfort themselves, to laugh at themselves, and to gain the strength of character that helps them weather the storms of life.
When children do learn laughter, they also learn empathy. We laugh at true things, sometimes hard truth, about ourselves and others, but it isn't funny if it doesn't have a bit of the bite of truth, an experience we've shared or seen together. Even if we are the "butt" of the joke, being exposed to the truth, and being able to laugh at it, will set us free from the hard thing, and make us conquerors over it.
Even death can be conquered. Dante wrote his "Divine Comedy" about the fact that death has no more dominion over us, because the Holy One of Yahweh, came to conquer death, take it's sting, and remind us that we are also eternal spiritual beings, having a divinely funny human experience.