Beliefnet

Laughter liberates and laughter uplifts. When laughter comes into a life, nothing is too difficult, nothing can defeat us. We can survive the noonday sun and the darkness of death and the grinding boredom of dailiness and still find life exhilarating. Other things in life change color like chameleons on plaid, but laughter is always ornament, always grace.

There are some things that must always be laughed at in life:

1. Laugh when people tell a joke. Otherwise you might make them feel bad.

2. Laugh when you look into a mirror. Otherwise you might feel bad.

3. Laugh when you make a mistake. If you don't, you're liable to forget how ultimately unimportant the whole thing really is, whatever it is.

4. Laugh with small children. It will restore your delight in the fundamental things of life. It will also improve your sense of humor. Have you ever noticed what children laugh at? They laugh at mashed bananas on their faces; mud in their hair; a dog nuzzling their ears; the sight of their bottoms as bare as silk. It renews your perspective. Clearly, nothing is as bad as it could be.

5. Laugh at situations that are out of your control. When the best man comes to the altar without the wedding ring, laugh. When the dog jumps through the window screen at the dinner guests on your doorstep, sit down and laugh awhile. When you find yourself in public wearing mismatched shoes, laugh--as loudly as you can. Why collapse in mortal agony? There’s nothing you can do to change things now. Besides, it is funny. Ask me; I’ve done it.

6. Laugh at anything pompous, at anything that needs to puff its way through life in robes and titles. Because laughter is a social virtue, it will help the rest of us see the difference between what is authentic in life and what is not. Will Rogers laughed at all the public institutions of modern life. For instance, “You can’t say civilization isn’t advancing,” he wrote. “In every war they kill you in a new way.” And thanks to his laughter we began to see what was going on around us in fresh and shocking perspective.

7. Finally, laugh when all your carefully laid plans get changed: when the plane is late and the restaurant is closed and the last day’s screening of the movie of the year was yesterday. You’re free now to do something else, to be spontaneous for a change, to take a piece of life and treat it with outrageous abandon.

There are some things, of course, that do not qualify for laughter, that do not refresh the human heart, that set out to hurt whole classes of people, in fact, and that should never, under any conditions, be tolerated under the pretense of humor. Ethnic jokes and sexist sneers and racial slurs and jeering at physical limitations do not empty the human soul of debris. They simply fill it with a venom disguised as humor. The sign of laughter gone sour lies clearly in the charge, ‘What’s the matter with her? Can’t she take a joke?” Then the laughter goes hollow or guttural, weak or low. Though nothing at all may be said, everyone knows on the spot that kindness and clear vision have flown the place forever.

In the final analysis, we should laugh at anything that is not a matter of life and death. The trick is to remember that only life and death are life and death. Then the canvas is broad and the palette is deep. The whole world becomes a jester’s paradise in which we laugh at what we did not foresee.

Laughter is an antidote to dualism, a necessary foundation of mental health. To the one who laughs, life is good, the world is good, goodness is the ground on which we walk. No dualism here, no fear of body or soul, no rejection of the tattered truth of our existence. Just gentle, gentle wholeness tenderly handled, lovingly held.Finally, laughter enables us to live in a highly structured world without falling prey to the manacles of the mind that blind our eyes and cement our hearts. Laughter gives us the freedom of the Jesus who taught babies and poked fun at Pharisees and told winsome little stories, spiritual jokes, about women who would not let pretentious judges alone. Day after day he smiled his way from one theological absolute to another and left the world with enough to smile about until the end of time.

Once we learn to laugh and play, we will have come closer to understanding our laughing, playing God. The God of ridiculous promises is a God who laughs, a God to be laughed at and laughed with, until that moment when all pain washes away and only the laughter of God is left to be heard in the heavens.

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