My blood pressure dreams of quiet days when everything is good. But alas, it only takes one brief lap around the Internet track chewing on the news before my blood pressure starts pounding my temple drums with a battering ram. Compound that with my professional and personal life, which are, at the moment, wanting, and one soon starts exploring the options of drinking at 10 a.m. or escaping to Ambienland.
So I force myself to smile and think about the amazing therapeutic effects of laughter and friendship. All of a sudden, bad things don’t seem quite so bad.
Are joy and humor pearls of grace hand delivered by God?
A Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, writes the following in Summa Theologica: “Just as tears or groans are an effect of sorrow, so laughter is an effect of joy.” And the source of that joy? God!
Fr. James Martin’s book Laughing with the Saints told the following story. In the 1940s, when Blessed Pope John XXIII was still a cardinal and the papal nuncio in Paris, he was at an elegant dinner party, seated across from a woman wearing a very low-cut dress that exposed a good deal of cleavage. Someone turned to him and said, “Your Eminence, aren’t you embarrassed that everyone is looking at that woman?” And he said, “Oh no, everyone is looking at me, to see if I’m looking at her.”
I love that story. Which reminds me of one day in my life––when joy embraced and comforted me. Thank you, Lord. Just what I needed.
You had to be there. People say this when they are retelling an event because they know the laughter of yesterday won’t translate well in the story telling of today. Case in point. My friend and I went up to his Wyoming ranch to re-panel a closet and otherwise relax for a few days. He wanted to spare me from my negative ruminations; manual labor, that’s the ticket. The place is gorgeous, serene, and I love going there. The ranch is a blessing in my life, my friend and his family, more so.
Before we were to begin our closet construction project that would ultimately entail two days (a job that would take a contractor four hours), my friend, whom I’ll call Ray to destroy his anonymity, decided we needed a hearty breakfast to fuel our efforts. Imagining himself a culinary genius, his movements about the kitchen choreographed, the black magic erupted. Why one needs a tool belt to cook however, is beyond me.
We didn’t have many eggs, two I think, but the logical way to increase the size of any meal is to add bulk. Even I know that. Ray went mining in the fridge and came out with a pepperoni stick the size of a surfboard. Now, one might be inclined to dice said pepperoni but as we were in a hurry, Ray instead added large chunks to the eggs already burning in the frying pan. I believe the ratio of pepperoni to eggs was fifty to one.
Somewhere in the process, Ray added a cup of salt. He later said he didn’t want us to cramp up during the remodeling job, which at first blush is not entirely stupid. However, by the time I started on the closet, water retention puffed me up like a blowfish. Anyway, back to the frying pan. Any great chef intuitively knows when critical components are missing in a recipe but since Ray is not one, he stuck his paw back in the refrigerator and randomly pulled out Monterrey jack and Swiss cheese to complete his creation.
As grating is overrated he again went the chunky route. Equally apparent is he likes fifty-to-one ratios because the eggs were overwhelmed like Custer at Bighorn. Watching Ray cook was like watching a baby penguin play the piano. And voilà, with the heat on low and way too many spices randomly added, aromas and smoke bleaching my nose hairs, egg, pepperoni and cheese aggregate blending like Hindus and Muslims, the creation was served.
Like any expectant cook, Ray asked, “How is it?”
I replied, “Interesting.”
In fact, cold prison food scraped off a wall would have been a step up. Since the egg and pepperoni chunks were both encapsulated in absurdly seasoned cheese and lukewarm, the meal had the consistency of Play-Doh. It was though I ate barely cooked pieces of rotten road kill previously rejected by crows. After three bites I declared myself full, ran for the refrigerator, grabbed a beer and enthusiastically ravished it like a hungry babe on his mother’s breast. Still perplexed what sin of mine warranted such punishment, I gave Ray a thumbs-up and acknowledged I really was in no hurry to ever eat again.
Fast-forward an hour. We are about to secure a panel to the wall and I’m suddenly alerted to not so gentle rumblings deep within my core.
“I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable,” I moaned to Ray.
Not waiting for a response, I ran for the downstairs bathroom and proceeded to have a rather extended visit. I won’t highlight the embarrassing details, but since Ray is a medical professional, I asked him if he could describe to me what the duodenum or medulla oblongata looks like. I suspect I left something like it in the toilet bowl.
Again, you had to be there. I didn’t have a down moment the entire weekend. If I had been alone and left to my own devices, I would have gathered dust lying on the couch listening to sad music.
Pearls of grace, absolutely.
I’ll finish with ten benefits of humor listed by Fr. Martin––this world needs them all!
1) Humor evangelizes.
2) Humor is a tool for humility.
3) Humor can shock listeners into recognizing reality.
4) Humor speaks truth to power.
5) Humor shows Christian courage.
6) Humor welcomes.
7) Humor is healing.
8) Humor fosters good relations.
9) Humor opens our minds.
10) Humor is fun.