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The Joy of Laughter

life's too mysterious to be so serious

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I have a tendency to be overly earnest. Knowing this, I once bought a cute Mary Englebreit poster for my classroom that said, “Life’s too mysterious to take too serious.” It was just the thing to help me take a lighthearted approach to my job as an English teacher.

Ironically, I had to take the poster down. I couldn’t get over the fact that it was grammatically incorrect. It should have read, “Life’s too mysterious to take too seriously.” To be clear, seriously is an adverb describing the verb take. For the same reason, one of my favorite songs, Take It Easy, should technically be Take It Easily.

I know. What a nerd. I was recently reminded of the need to temper my conscientious nature with some good belly laughs.

I was driving alone from Indiana to Illinois to care for my mom, who wasn’t feeling well. The windshield wipers thumped a gloomy beat that matched the news on the radio. I flipped to a couple of music stations, but no song brought relief from my worry. Like many of you, I’m heavy-hearted by the Coronavirus and its effect on our country and the people I love.

I scrolled through the channels on Sirius XM radio and settled on LaughUSA, a station I had never listened to before. Four hours later, I pulled into my mom’s place with a smile on my face, my sides aching from laughter, and a much lighter mood.

Once I became an adult, I pretty much gave up on comedy. Life demanded responsibility and diligence, and that’s what I gave it. The older I got, the more serious I got, though I secretly longed to laugh myself silly.

Unfortunately, I find most humor these days to be crude and crass. A few years ago I was excited to go to a comedy show at Chicago’s Second City. As the show went on, the dark humor made me feel increasingly nauseous, and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. As we walked outside, I let the cold, fresh air of the windy city sting my face and blow away the icky feeling.

I’m a cornball who loves a good, clean joke. When I was young, my little sisters and I stayed up late on Saturday nights to watch The Carol Burnett Show. We still crack up thinking about Tim Conway playing an inept dentist. We would laugh uproariously when our dad, an actual dentist and very goofy guy, entertained us by acting out Conway’s character.

Remember Hee Haw? When my kids were in elementary school, we often watched re-runs of the show after their evening baths. They even learned a few of the comedy sketches and would perform them to my delighted applause.

Lately I’ve been watching some of my favorite feel-good movies. I had all but forgotten the scene from Mary Poppins with Bert and Uncle Albert laughing so hard they float up to the ceiling singing, “I love to laugh, loud and long and clear. The more I laugh, the more I fill with glee. The more the glee, the more I’m a merrier me!”

At such a difficult time in our nation, talk of laughter may sound a little tone-deaf, but I think we all could use a hearty laugh. W.E.B. Du Bois (not well-known for his sense of humor) said, “I am especially glad of the divine gift of laughter. It has made the world human and lovable, despite all of its pain and wrong.”

No matter how serious life gets, we can’t forget to laugh, loud and long and clear.

Bert: I knew a man with a wooden leg named Smith.

Uncle Albert: What was the name of his other leg?

Come on, now. That’s funny stuff.


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