You can have an addiction to almost anything; mine is laughter. I feel better when I have it and I always want more. Unlike most addictions, mine isn’t dangerous or harmful for my health; in fact, it can be beneficial if practiced often enough.
Ever since I was little, I have been intrigued by humor. (Sometimes when asked what I wanted to be when I grow up, I responded “Canadian” instead of “comedian”. The response has since changed, but the interest hasn’t.) I remember certain experiences by how much I laughed, like sharing a hotel room with my brother in Germany or trying (and failing) to present in a serious manner a presentation for my high-school American Literature class. Most of these experiences were embarrassing for me, but that is the beauty of it all: being able to laugh at oneself. You may be able to laugh at someone else, but it’s more impressive when you can make fun of your own actions.
Though I respect situations that call for solemnity, I understand the benefits that humor can provide. I have a vivid memory of a funeral I attended for a family member who had died suddenly. During the service, a microphone was passed around to whoever wished to share an anecdote about the deceased. I took the mike and recounted my favorite memory. It was humorous, and everyone appreciated the lightness of it. Though it was difficult, having the strength to share a story with a group of bereaved people proved the comforting and bonding effect of laughter, even if it is only briefly.
Like some photographers keep an eye out for the perfect alignment of a moment to capture with their lens, I am always looking for that moment when others let down their guard and surrender to a moment of pure laughter. It’s hard to explain, but I feel like I witness a person’s essence, their soul, when I hear them laugh a deep, unadulterated gut laugh. I think it’s because it is genuine; you can fake any other emotion, but you can’t pretend to be amused.
If anything, I know the value of a little humor in an ever-serious world. If you can laugh, you can deal with anything life throws at you.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.