(Reposted from 2012)
I keep telling myself that I’m going to lighten up here.
I’m really not a somber, nit-picky person as I may come across in my blog because my posts are so serious all the time. I’m actually someone who smiles a lot by default. I’m the type of person who tends to laugh when other people are laughing even if I didn’t hear the original joke. I love a good joke, a good laugh, a good stand-up comedy routine and a raucous, silly movie.
My favorite people have really good laughs. My 11 year old daughter laughing is pure gold.
I can even laugh at myself. I can laugh at myself when I haven’t initiated the joke. My kids are fond of saying “Remember when Dad ________?!” The blank refers to some incident when my poor parenting either caused one of them to cry profusely, or when I almost caused them to loose a functioning body part. Worse yet, the blank space could refer to a time when all of us almost died at my hands. I think if you’re a parent you can appreciate how NOT funny that really is…and yet hilarious to your 11 and 13 year old.
I know in all fairness I can’t say that without providing an example so here goes…
“Remember when Dad blew up the chili?!”
I take my kids camping every year around Father’s Day. It’s a lot of work to do by yourself and yet completely fun and totally worth it. So one time we were all around the campfire and one of the kids asked for some more food. I’d already put all the dinner stuff away and so I got a can of chili and put it on a grill over the fire to warm it up. It exploded with all of us not 4 feet from the fire pit. Everyone screamed. Two of my girls ran screaming behind the tent. As I ran to make sure they were OK, one of them started crying “I’m bleeding! I’m bleeding!” Turns out it was just chili but in the dark it really did look like blood.
I was amazed that my 6 year old ran so well and so quickly in the dark, but in the daytime couldn’t walk 10 feet without falling down and getting scraped.
Nobody got hurt. Most of the chili, and all of the chili can pieces somehow missed us. I’d just come out of the losing end of a nasty custody battle with my ex and I was sure this incident was going to cause me to lose them completely. Turns out it’s one of their favorite memories.
It’s powerful to laugh or be laughed at
I know people who won’t dance or sing or whatever as adults because they were once laughed at as a kid. That’s sad. Personally I’d be a bedridden zombie if I took that approach.
I watched a TV special once that documented how humor in the former Eastern Bloc countries increased over time and actually paralleled the rise of freedom. The unanswered question was, “Did the increase in humor impact the ability of people to fight for freedom, or was humor a consequence of having more freedom?”
I’m not sure, but I suspect humor is merely symptomatic of a groundswell in thinking. When you begin to think, you see contradictions, paradoxes and hidden truths that nobody wants to admit. It’s funny to point things out that everyone is thinking but that most people are too afraid to admit.
In the tightly controlled culture of Mormonism I think humor is increasing these days. Oh yes, Mormons are still a tightly wound bunch, but back in the 70’s you would never have had Mormon movie comedies that actually poked fun at the culture, or books like the web site Latter-day Lampoon (I’m not posting a link because I read that the creator doesn’t want ex-Mormons linking to his site, so here’s a link to the article), or the Men on a Mission calendar, or Elna Baker’s book The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance. There’s even a Palestinian Mormon comedian you can watch out there!
Are Mormons the only religion to have an official doctrine against a certain kind of laughter? It’s weird how a Google image search for “communists laughing” yielded more usable results than “Mormons laughing.” I did laugh a lot as a Mormon. I think that the “loud laughter” thing is something most of us just ignored because when we were laughing we knew deep down it was a good thing and that God was smiling too.
Some of my biggest giggling attacks have happened in religious settings
I served a mission to Brazil and later lived in Japan teaching English for a year. The Japanese word “koko” meaning “here” when spoken sounds like the Portuguese word for “shit”. I can’t count the number of times a Brazilian friend and I sat in a Japanese chapel stifling giggles over that one. “We’d like to thank you all for coming here” or “I know here is the right place to be”… I’ve long since forgotten any Japanese but there’s also something in the Sacrament Prayer that elicited snickers from us “gaijin” every single week.
I’ve never been able to make it through the middle chapters of Alma in the Book of Mormon without a giggling attack. I mean come on, is there anyone who can read these verses and NOT laugh? My Mom’s favorite euphemism for “butt” or “ass” was “rear” so maybe it’s funnier to me:
Alma 56:23 For we knew in those cities they were not sufficiently strong to meet them; therefore we were desirous, if they should pass by us, to fall upon them in their rear, and thus bring them up in the rear at the same time they were met in the front. We supposed that we could overpower them; but behold, we were disappointed in this our desire.Alma 52:29 Now the Lamanites did not know that Moroni had been in their rear with his army; and all they feared was Lehi and his men.
36 And Lehi pressed upon their rear with such fury with his strong men, that the Lamanites in the rear delivered up their weapons of war; and the remainder of them, being much confused, knew not whither to go or to strike.
I’m dying! DYING!
That’s so gay!
Any God of mine is laughing too.