Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Laughter, the Best Medicine...

"Many families are built on laughter." ~Indian Proverb

When Aaron was home for spring break in March, he gave Melissa the entire collection of the old British TV show, Fawlty Towers, for her birthday. We laughed our way through every single episode that week.

Then, just this last week, in my early morning reading, I ran across a passage in Father Alexander Schmemann's journals about Fawlty Towers. I liked what he said, and I've already shared it with Aaron and Melissa:

"Enjoyed watching 'Fawlty Towers' yesterday on Channel 13. Like fresh air! Intelligent, funny, fast. Then an interview with John Cleese, the author and actor. Enjoyed his British manner. It seems to me that an Englishman does not necessarily have to be intelligent. The civilization that surrounds him is intelligent. In America, everything is characterized by an interest in self, by taboos (blacks, Jews, women, religion, politics). If one does not say the right thing, immediately there is a noisy reaction; lawyers, demands for equal time, etc. In England, the smoothing of sharp angles is achieved by a sense of humor. In this world, it's a huge achievement; one, I would almost say, of a spiritual order. Christianity demands before anything else denial of self-- the most difficult of all achievements."

And, yesterday, I ran across something by G.K. Chesterton about seriousness and laughter:

"...pride cannot rise to levity or levitation. Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One 'settles down' into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness. A man 'falls' into a brown study; he reaches up at a blue sky. Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one's self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity."

Do you ever imagine God laughing joyfully or heartily? Can you think of Him as being funny? Does that sound almost heretical, as if I'm making Him shallow? We are created in God's image, and He gave us laughter and a sense of humor. It's a good thing. God's sense of humor would be perfect. I wonder what that looks like.

Children laugh much more easily and frequently than adults, and their carefree, trusting attitude is why I think Jesus said we should be like children. If we truly trust in God, won't we be a little more lighthearted and little less anxious? If we can learn to laugh at ourselves and our daily frustrations and irritations, our homes will be much more pleasant places. We'll be a bit more stable and less self-absorbed. I thank God that I was raised among cheerful relatives who had a sense of humor and knew how to laugh, even when things were tough.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine..." (Proverbs 17:22)

We all love to laugh. We know it's good for us. And we humans are absurd creatures, so there's much to laugh about. I think Chesterton is right that we take ourselves too seriously. He also said that angels fly because they take themselves lightly.