Once laughter was the only thing that kept a person sane in this life. Any laughter would do, from a titter through the fingers to the wildest, choking guffaw. The precise nature of the laughter wasn’t as important as the fact that one could still laugh at all. To be sure, in a world where either moral bombast or maudlin sentimentality had become the default response to every human plight, a jocund spirit was routinely dismissed with scorn. Suggesting that both moral bombast and maudlin sentimentality wetere farcically inappropriate given life’s trials was bound to earn you the label of social misfit, or worse. And those bold enough to advocate strong doses of humor in place of stale nostrums were wise to expect a shrill, orchestrated attack in return. Yet wasn’t precisely a stubbornly enduring mirth proof to every generation that the worst could not triumph utterly nor the loss of the best destroy them? Despots might survive attempts to dethrone them but not the steady undoing of their power laugh by rebellious laugh. The weight of injustice and bigotry could be eased, calamity and miscalculation borne, the grip of illness loosened and our deepest wounds closed, every “inner demon” defanged, even the end of precious dreams survived—and all with a smile. For what else was the background noise filling the universe but the riant echoes of creation, with their assurance that life is the beginning and the end and nothing lies beyond it? Nothing, even the inexplicable, does not belong. Death might have its day, humiliation hold both tormentor and tormented in its cold stare, futility be the final tenant of every house built on hope, but laughter, strong as water scouring away stone, would always hollow out a place for the soul to rest. To laugh was to resist, to defy what couldn’t be denied and, more, to revel in that defiance. To once again bet on humanity with a smile, despite all the odds.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans