22 September, 2007

Is Laughter a Blessing?

None of you knows me. Not really.

You've not seen me laugh my way through a 2 hour bible study - whether I'm teaching, the pastor's teaching, or no one's teaching. You don't know my reputation as a class clown. I didn't either until a couple nights ago, when the group had a good laugh at me and my bible study stand up routine. So it will seem normal to you that I'm against most laughter, while it might seem odd if you knew me.

The only humor I can ever remember blogging is my Green Pants story, and I'm not sure that caused anyone any side-pain. I tried humor in email years ago, and it never, ever worked predictably. My humor is dry enough without taking away all non-verbal clues. So, to the best of my ability, I'm just not funny out here at all. (Tari knows of once when I flat-out mocked a troll, but I don't know of any other time I risked hurting someone's feelings for a joke.)

I'm hyper-sensitive on the subject anyway. I doubt it will surprise anyone that I was the least popular kid in my class from 2nd to 12th grade. I pretty much deserved it. I was a thin-skinned, self-righteous prick, and I doubt I would have liked myself, but everyone else was quite sure. So, laughter was always what other people had at my expense.

So, when Lingamish posted, Whoa to You Who Laugh, he had my attention. I linked over from Better Bibles Blog, and was pretty much taken in. He is spoofing things I hold dear. Never a lot of fun. I didn't figure out he was poking fun until the last few lines of the post, which is of course how a good spoof should be. Fortunately, he told us to read the obits instead of the comics, and even I could tell he was parodying people like me. Upon finally "getting it" and seeing him confirm his humorous intent in his comments, it left me with that familar old "outside looking in" feeling that the years and my friends have taught me to hate.

Lingamish is a great guy, and his post is excellent and in great taste. I have no complaints for him, the way he's written, the method he employed, or even the indignity of having been "gotten" by his clever work. I didn't enjoy thinking I'd found someone who half agreed with me, only to discover I was pranked, but the victim isn't really supposed to enjoy the prank. They just laugh to show they're good sports. I guess I'm not one.

You can read my comment at his site, and tell me whether you think there's any truth in what I said.

Here's my opinion. I don't think it's funny unless everyone can laugh from the heart. There are mountains of wordplays and insights and victories in which everyone can rejoice and laugh. But those don't get the glory here in America. In America, someone has to be pranked. And all those allegedly funny movies are based upon someone being the fool. If there's a fool, it isn't funny. If there's a fool, you are laughing because you're glad it's happening to him and not you. Of course, it's pretty easy to hold that line when I've spent a lifetime as the fool.

In my family, I'm held in pretty low esteem because I don't think "Something About Mary" was funny. There are parts of the show where I laugh, but it's laughing against my heart not with it. All the laughter of that movie is of the type described by Heinlein in this not-famous-enough quote, "I've found out why people laugh. They laugh because it hurts... because it's the only thing that'll make it stop hurting."

So, if you feel like a challenge today, take a little read of Lingamish's post and see whether you think it should be taken more seriously than he meant it. (And it's OK if you think it's just funny. :-)


Kansas Bob said...

I love to laugh! I think that maybe you and I were separated t birth CP ... our church staff has gotten used to my wit and now gives (to me) as much as they receive. Friendly jesting can be pretty endearing ... you really need to know someone to throw a zinger their way ... although I did have to recently apologize to one of my coworkers for a zinger that was over the top.

I think that humor is one of the ways that I keep perspective on my trials ... I often say that if I hadn't learned to laugh then I would probably be crying a lot. I personally think that Christians make too much of delineation between joy, laughter and happiness - it has resulted in sourpuss serious Christians with "joy in their hearts" :)

tari said...

Well...the Green Pants entry didn't cause me side pain, but I giggled and smiled all the way through. :) On top of wondering, like Milly, all the way through just exactly what color green those pants were!

Milly said...

You’ve written some stuff that’s made me laugh out loud like your pants, the brushing of the teeth, and those cats.

I have an odd sense of humor, I laugh at stuff that others think isn’t that funny like (Mind you I was on pain killers) Homer holding that pig upside down and singing spider pig. I’m giggling right now at the image in my head.

I hate pranks and dirty jokes.

I laugh at our own stupidity in life but hate watching America’s Funniest Home Video. I end up yelling “Put down the camera!”

I’ll bet I could make you laugh. I would have made you laugh in school also.

And your comment was spot on.

My word verification is frk fati. What's that? I think I was just insulted by that thing.

codepoke said...

I brought this up to my son (who is not a believer) and he reminded me that laughter is the best medicine. Like everything else, that got me thinking, and KB's comment is along those same lines. But the verse in Proverbs actually says:
Pr 17:22
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

We all love a merry heart. When a merry heart laughs, we ALL laugh with it.

Still, at times in my life I have found reason to remember other Proverbs as well, like:
Pr 25:20
As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.

That one gets forgotten. The only fight I ever started was when one of my classmates would not stop singing, "It's a happy day, and I thank God for the weather," to me and laughing at the top of his lungs. I was trying to find a reason to keep living, and he was was trying to help - for about 3 seconds. After that he was reveling in how foolish I was.

Ah well. Who knows. Maybe I'll revisit this topic another day. I think I've worn out my desire to be the buzzkiller for the weekend.

Bill said...

I knew a guy who used to say the punchline of all his jokes was "that was a joke". I still feel for that guy. Myself, I knew some guys in Texas who started a running joke by telling too-serious-me "that was a joke, Bill". But I was never sure that it was. And I think, sometimes with them, it wasn't. Not really.

Humor is great. But it's like everything else down here, it gets used for different purposes. So, Kev, that is to say I agree with your comment this morning.

I find that, more than humor, it's other people I often don't get. And meanness. I don't get meanness. And I think your original point was kindof that humor and meanness go together too often.

I agree, and I wish that they didn't.

Remember, there once was a man with a wooden leg named Smith. (I forget the name of his other leg.) :)

codepoke said...

> the punchline of all his jokes was "that was a joke".

Hehehe. Yeah, I still get a lot of mileage out of that one.

Was the other leg named, "Wesson?"

tari said...

Was that a joke? ;-)

Seriously though, you two made me giggle.

I'm fascinated by this subject, and think it was such a worthwhile post, codepoke. Thanks.

Kansas Bob said...

I think that sometimes we say "that was a joke" to give people permission to laugh ... Christians especially can be uncomfortable with some forms of homor.

codepoke said...

I my case, it goes like this:

Codepoke: Says obscure thing he (alone) thinks is funny.

Everyone else in room: Looks at Codepoke like he's - well - Codepoke

Codepoke: Slaps self in head, and says, "I always forget the punchline."

Everyone in room: Looks hopefully like something, somewhere might be funny, and it might not be their fault they didn't laugh.

Codepoke: "The punchline to all my jokes is, 'That was a joke.' [pause] That was a joke."

Everyone in room: Realizes that, indeed, it was not their fault they didn't laugh, and laughs out of simple relief plus the general feeling that Codepoke much funnier than his jokes.

Codepoke: Blithely wanders off still pleasantly deluded that he has a sense of humor.

Bill said...

I'm not sure what 'homor' is, but I suspect it might indeed make me a bit uncomfortable.

By the way. "That was a joke."

karen said...

I love to laugh, like KB...gets you through the trials. A good belly laugh jiggles the lymph system!
I think you're funny, CP! I'd love to hear the original CP, though. We should all put a voice blurb on our blogs. I couldn't download KB's talk for some reason, and I really wanted to hear him speak.