In the interest of full disclosure, you have a right to know that this question is being posed by someone who believes that laughter is the very best medicine, and whose huge regard for the late, great sage and journalist, John Chancellor, holds his observation about laughter as combination of byword, mantra and motto, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
Tell me you never had reason to react to that insight with at least a small inner voice that signals, “Of course, of course,” accompanied by the sound of the hand hitting the forehead in a gesture of recognition. It’s a million miles from any defeatist alternative based on the false belief that if bad news can happen, it does.
There’s probably no need to build a case for why it is at this moment in our national history a Godsend to turn to a common-sense path to balance in the face of fear that things may be heading in a scary direction. And equally important, an antidote to buying into all the negative alternatives that cuts off the path to a much more sensible alternative summed up in phrases such as “For goodness sake, lighten up”, or “Get serious!”, or “How could that work when 80+percent of a sensible electorate believes that’s not the answer to the problem?”
Let’s visit some examples of how you can know when “It’s time to laugh.” I’ll take ownership of several of them and hope that encourages you to consider them a starter kit and to come up with your own list of reasons to defuse the doomsayers and move in the direction of sense. To laugh off the narrow view that rules out finding alternatives and to look for ones built on openness to the belief that the best answers are the ones that respect a diversity of input.
Act One: The quasi-political one you find in print and electronic media.
In the week just ended, a seemingly plausible legislator selected by a seemingly plausible electorate suggested that known defenders of the rule of law were investing their scarce “spare time” in a covert secret society dedicated to sabotaging a sitting POTUS.
Now mind you, as a profoundly junior league peace activist in the opposition to the Vietnam War, I was not on the face of it, an obvious cheerleader for the FBI. I related strongly to the interpretation portrayed in the recent production of Kunstler, that civil disobedience was a vital power in getting our judiciary and our citizenship to feel called to see the moral side of the opposition. In short, that the destruction of paper should not be the issue, but that grown-ups needed to see how shallow it looks in contrasted to the destruction of people.
But still I was, at least, a bit “spooked” by the suggestion that lots of my fellow citizens and a sector of our media were buying into the legislator’s dire warning. Then, the next day, the Congressman explained that his warning was just a sort of joke…. Even to have spent a few minutes considering one of thousands of the perennial conspiracy theories that form the shiny objects that distract from the real issue is a waste of those minutes. Open safety valve and conclude it’s “time to laugh.”
Act Two: The personal/familial one you find in a seemingly poignant event.
On a more personal level, the marching orders issued to her family by my treasured sister before her recent death, made it clear that she would consider crying as a sort of “dereliction of duty.’” Her faith, her personality, and our luminously clear understanding that she saw her reunion with the love of her life, “James the Great,” and all the loved ones who went before them, as an ultimate positive.
She had mandated that her eulogies were to be “funny” and that her mourners were to be sent from her last ceremonies “laughing.” She wanted them to participate in her confidence that she was setting out on the next chapter of a “life changed, not ended.” My sentiment exactly!
So, imagine my challenge when the masses of white roses surrounding her simple coffin evoked in me a stream of world class watery eyes. After repeated assurances that it was the flowers and that I was not a begrudger that would have denied my big sister the realization of her deepest hope, I decided I might have to up the ante. Then, I decided I’d better move to her other direction: “Be sure they leave laughing.” And so, the kindly procession of sympathizers began to hear the last surviving Cunningham sibling deliver this accusation: “Pardon my sister’s sense of humor. She seems intent of sabotaging my unshakeable happiness for her by engineering watery eyes that owe more to allergy than to emotion.” And in what a playwright’s stage directions might describe as “sister silently addresses her deceased sister with an unspoken aside…” “Enough Peggy, it’s definitely not funny!’” In short, that’s Act 2 of “It’s Time to Laugh.”
Act Three: The commercial with suppliers of phone and banking services.
Scene 1: In a meeting with your well-named personal bankers at your local Chase branch, a couple of unexpected events reveal sides of your bankers that you might otherwise never have discovered.
As you seek advice on how to juggle withdrawals and deposits to cover unpredicted expenditures that soon will come due, and as it becomes clear that you are not the master of all the things your “much smarter than I” smartphone can do, your personal banker takes it upon himself to help you unravel your electronic challenges as well as your financial ones. And so, as you sail through two new breeds of having your phone recognize you and grant you admission to your own data, you come away with a new story. “How did I know that?” to answer the observers who are amazed by your newborn confidence you can now answer, “My personal banker taught me.”
Scene 2: Or what about the astoundingly patient and competent Verizon Wireless Tech Guru who stays on the line for nearly three hours to determine that your very fancy new phone is not just persistently dark of screen, but officially deceased. He sets up a free replacement to travel to you within 24 hours and then spends the other hours resuscitating and reinstating the data to which you waved goodbye when it was migrated from the phone you understood to the one only your genius network engineer understands.
Two prime and I believe not entirely unrelated examples of how you face down an attack of “deer in the headlights” brand fear-evoking challenges and top them off with a relieved pronouncement: “It’s Time to Laugh.”