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Laugh Hard

July 18, 2016

I’ve been enjoying reading Os Guinness’s “Fool’s Talk” , a magnificent book that, at some point, stopped me to think about the dynamics behind human laughter. Laughter, as I realized, is one of (if not) the most beautiful gift from our creator. It brings in balance and sanity to an otherwise serious, unjust, sometimes tragic, difficult and stressful life.

But what do we laugh about? We laugh about anything and everything. We laugh because we understand things; “we also know the way things ought to be, and sometimes the difference makes us laugh and sometimes it makes us cry.” That is why a puffed up politician falling down the stairs is a funny scenario while the one where a paralytic falls isn’t. In short, we laugh about the “incongruities” of life.

As stated earlier, laughter is a gift, a good medicine. It puts into gear a mechanism to heal emotionally from life’s complexities and contradictions and provides a temporary escape of some kind, if you will. Therefore our minds (and bodies) needs a healthy amount of it to be able to move forward.

At this juncture I think it is appropriate to add a word warning that it is very tempting to keep looking for fun instead of facing the problems at hand, and so laughter in this case becomes an addictive substance we’re looking for, requiring more and more consumption but delivers a decreasing amount of joy. The old saying hits the nail on the head when it states that it is better to spend all your days in the house of mourning than the house of mirth—probably because sorrow does justice to life’s reality more than non-stop partying.

We need, however, to address that question on a deeper level. What does it say about us, human beings when we laugh? Far deeper than the question about the direct and indirect reasons behind our laughter and what we find entertaining (which is also a good index of our heart’s condition) is the question of what it is that makes us forget, for few golden moments, about our current situation in life and turn our focus on the object of our entertainment. Is it mere escapism? If so escape to where?

In the book, Guinness tells of a time he met, in Poland, a survivor of Aushwitz-Birkenau who had converted to the Christian faith in a death camp because there, a fellow prison inmate expressed Christian hope in humor. In prison, people laugh too—even there ‘where nothing seemed to have meaning, let alone a funny side’. In the most depressing situations, there too, although less often than us, people laugh. What does that say about us, human beings?

More than we ever think, this laughter is not mere escapism. Could it be a clue for understanding what we are made for? Isn’t laughter a natural expression of aspiration of a better and brighter future—that is if we really believe of a brighter future?

Humor in the face of death in the case of the survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau indicated a heart letting go of the concern of the immediate, no matter how dark it was, and grabbing a brighter and stronger reality than death—in this case, life with God after death. Pain and death wasn’t the last word, everlasting pleasures in the Son was his destiny, and so he laughed at the present.

In his own words:

Not for one moment was Auschwitz itself ever something to laugh about. But like a flash lightning or a momentary parting of the clouds, humor lit up a truth that was larger than anything that could happen to the poor prisoners, a truth that even Auschwitz could not sensor.

Every time we laugh we acknowledge the importance of something more substantial and weightier than our present settings. It is this inbuilt and compulsive need that we all have to escape the transient—which suggests that this is not all there is and which testify of our rejection of what we now see as the ultimate reality to focus on.

So, laugh hard! It is a gift, and I hope you realize it the next time it happens. But on a more profound level, humor, do you now see, was given for a purpose. Yes it can be misused or look like a means of escape; but what if these moments, as beautiful and enjoyable as we might find them, were pointers putting eternity back into perspective?

Laugh hard! It is a gift to be opened in the moment, in the here and now. It is okay if it makes you forget the immediate and present circumstances; God made you a laughing being. This soon will pass the same way every flower fades. So mount up on your God-given wings of laughter, and like an eagle, fly higher than the present, and ponder and wonder about the eternal. Don’t waste your laughter.

Is your hope and destiny bright and sure—otherwise why should you laugh?

Laugh hard, dear reader, it is a gift; but let the gift draw you to the giver of life, future and hope—God, the real and solid ground for laughter.


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