When I was ten years old, and my best friend and I talked about our future husbands, hers was going to be a prince...handsome and rich. My future husband was going to make me laugh. Even then I was well aware of the importance of a sense of humor. My chosen form of wit then (and even now) was laced with a bit of sarcasm, but I laughed at anything from the three stooges to Mark Twain. I realized that humor would see me through the saddest of times.
I married a man whose sense of humor was evident from our first date, and we raised two children who inherited our love of laughing. I always tried to inject humor into my classrooms and continue to laugh at life’s absurdities rather than beat my chest when life throws one of its many curve balls.
That is why I am particularly concerned when I watch humor being parsed like a poorly diagrammed sentence, with each piece held up as an example of what is wrong with society. Comedians are being forced to apologize time and again for comments that would have been laughed at several years ago. Don’t get me wrong, bullying and racial/religious/gender insensitivity should not by part of a comics routine, but the rest of America needs to learn how to recognize a joke.
Frankly, I can’t imagine why anyone wants to be a politician these days, but luckily some are willing to sacrifice their time (and sanity) to make a difference. We, in turn, repay them with criticism as we measure their words. Former congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke was speaking in front of a crowd several days ago and joked about his marriage. Nothing major. He explained how his wife, Amy, raises their kids “sometimes with my help.” Same sort of joke that men (and women ) have been telling for years, except now it is deemed so offensive that he felt the need to apologize. “Not only will I not say that again, but I’ll be more thoughtful going forward in the way that I talk about our marriage, and also the way in which I acknowledge the truth of the criticism that I have enjoyed white privilege.”
Are you kidding me? Have we become that sensitive to humor?
Do you know that according to Mayo Clinic studies, laughter can soothe tension, activate and relieve your stress response, and stimulate your heart, lungs and muscles? In the long term it can improve your immune system, relieve pain, and improve your mood. Whether or not a sense of humor helps you live longer is debatable, but it certainly makes your life a lot more enjoyable.
There are many things that Americans need to work on, if we wish to recover over the next few years. Our image throughout the world is tarnished, our humanitarian ideals have been weakened and bigotry has once again reared it’s ugly head. The pendulum will swing and things will improve, but we must not lose our collective sense of humor along the way. It is laughter that will indeed help us outlast the unbearable, even as we find ourselves the focus of the joke.
Since reading is another thing that makes my life enjoyable, I keep a list of my favorite authors in a tablet on my nightstand. Rick Mofina is one of my go to authors, and I featured him in madderlyreview’s author section in 2014. In that feature article I talked about first being introduced to him: "Sometime in 2010 a friend suggested I read the book Six Seconds by Rick Mofina. I remember picking it up after breakfast, I remember closing it at midnight, but I honestly remember nothing in between. That was when I knew that I had found an author to follow.”
I have not changed my mind, and his latest title, Missing Daughter, is not to be missed.
A complete review of this book follows my blog.