How old are we when we discover how to laugh?
I was thinking about that the other day, about the good fortune of being born into an Irish clan that considers laughing a lot like the ability to breathe. I suppose we could be considered an immature bunch in this staid world where life can be so serious if one is not careful. A lot of folks are afraid to look foolish. I ask, "Who are you afraid to look foolish for?" Shakespeare's quote on the human condition kinda hits it right on the noggin: "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" Yep Will, you were right. And we are bigger fools if we forget how to absorb life's goofiness.
When I think of the birth of laughing, I am reminded of my nephew James, now 25 and a student at the University of New Mexico, and the time when he learned how to laugh.
The lad was then a chubster in diapers, and he was, foolishly, left in the care of his aunts -- my sister Kathy and I -- while his parents went out for a breather. It seems to me the three of us were sitting on a couch, little James between us, and we were watching a rerun of that very serious chap Benny Hill, who made Kathy and I snort in merriment.
James was curious about the sounds we were making. First he watched Kathy, then me, then Kathy again. Then he thought a bit. All of a sudden, James chuckled, and Kathy and I shut up. He heard the sound of his own sense of humor for the first time, and he liked it. He laughed like the sound of a brook...ha ha ha ha ha ha hee hee hee...over and over again. It amazed him. You could tell he felt swell. And it made his aunts laugh so hard we almost broke the furniture.
It's a Celtic belief that the soul never dies, but is passed into another body. Therefore there is little fear of death. Methinks the soul is bound to the sound of a laugh, a shapeshifted gift that delivers on the idea that transformation comes when we can laugh at ourselves, with others, at the foolishness of life. It has such worth that it can't be bought, but only passed on, day to day, to any willing ear.