Laughter as liberation

One of the joys of the internet and social media is the many humorous posts and memes and photos and videos that are continually shared online. Laughter is liberating.

Laughter liberates the weighed-down soul. It brings levity or lightness to heavy times. When I was a kid, my Mom subscribed to Reader’s Digest (probably as a fundraiser for us kids) and I would read each issue religiously. But only the funny parts. I never missed the section called “Laughter, the Best Medicine.” And I agreed with the section title. I felt healed in some way by the ability to read a few lines and laugh out loud. I don’t know the stats, but I’ve heard many times that though they are a small population in the United States, the majority of comedians in our country are Jewish. As a people who have suffered so much for so many centuries, they’ve had to laugh or die.

Laughter liberates as a form of protest speech. Jews aren’t the only people who have suffered. Every suffering people learns to make fun of their oppressors. Isn’t that interesting that fun can be made? And when fun is made at the expense of those who have pressed you down, it is all the more fun.

Often that’s all that can be done in the face of power. When the powerful push and push and abuse those who resist, humor is often the only form of resistance left because of its subtlety.

In an overly regulated culture with signs everywhere, vandalism can be a wonderfully humorous form of protest speech as these altered signs prove. And easily the most renowned vandal is the street artist known only as Banksy. His work is so clever and well-done that most people would be sad if it were removed or covered over. Isn’t that interesting? A criminal act that is done so well and with such creative punch can become recognized as a valuable artistic contribution. What’s brilliant about Banksy is that by embracing anonymity, he is able to accept artistic recognition without letting it dilute the protest in his sometimes joyful, sometimes painful humor.

I wish all humor were liberating. But there are forms of satire which are so angry and hateful that they aren’t all that funny. Those are a topic for another time and another post.

My point here is: Laugh and be liberated. Laugh at yourself and be liberated from taking yourself too seriously. Laugh at your circumstances, because there is hope that absurdity will someday end. Laugh at the powerful and the beautiful ones, because their power and their beauty are already fading.

Laugh because there is something solid beneath this human farce that enables us to laugh and not despair. Laugh because there is a God who gives meaning to the crazy ride of history.

Laugh because when all is said and done, the absurdity will be transformed into beauty.