Once laughter was the only thing that kept a body going. Any laughter would do, from a restrained titter to the wildest, choking guffaw. The strength of the laughter wasn’t as important as the fact that one could laugh at all. To be sure, in a world where either moral posturing or maudlin sentiment had become the default response to every human plight, a jocund spirit was routinely dismissed with scorn. Suggesting that both these attitudes were equally and farcically inappropriate was bound to earn one the label of social misfit. And those bold enough to advocate strong doses of mirth in place of these sticky nostrums were wise to expect snorts of defensive ridicule in return. Yet wasn’t precisely this froward, stubborn joy a proof to every generation that the worst could not triumph utterly nor the loss of the best destroy one? Caesar-wannabes might survive attempts to dislodge them by force but not the steady undoing of their power laugh by rebellious laugh. The weight of injustice and bigotry could be eased, the grip of illness loosened, calamity and miscalculation borne, heartache soothed, even the end of 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 falls outside its sweep? 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 on a stone, would always hollow out a place for the spirit to rest. To laugh was to resist, to defy what couldn’t be denied and, more, to revel in that bright-souled defiance— To bet once more on humanity, against all the odds.
Copyright © 2009 by Geoffrey Grosshans