Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Humor as therapy

By nature I am not a particularly optimistic person, which I admit is not a good thing. But I do have some very effective counterbalances to my tendency toward gloom and pessimism, one of which is that I managed early on to develop what legions of people have told me is an exceptionally well-developed sense of humor. I don't say that to brag, but I really have been told that many times over the years, often to the accompaniment of such adjectives as "wonderful" or "marvelous." I was told by a friend at BYU years ago that it would bless me throughout my life, and it has, as just one example illustrates: In 1979 I was in love -- or thought I was -- with a young lady who did not reciprocate my feelings. Our relationship ended, and at the time I worked the night shift as a custodian on the BYU campus. So one night, while working, I spent the entire shift fuming over the way things had turned out between us; and while walking home at around 6:00 the next morning, the thought suddenly occurred to me that now that I had been rejected by the girl of my dreams, with absolutely nothing else left for me to live for, it would be just my luck to live to be 100 years old. A ridiculous idea, of course, but the ridiculousness of it was not lost on me even at that moment, and I immediately burst out laughing. I was fine after that.

I have never seen myself having a really good laugh, because nobody has ever made a video recording of it, but people who have seen it have told me it is very entertaining to watch, a real spectacle all by itself. I can't really describe it, but I go into convulsions, I think my face turns red, and not infrequently, I end up in tears. But man, do I feel great afterward! In Florence, Italy in 2002, I stopped at a Feltrinelli bookstore to browse around, and soon found myself sitting in a corner reading a "Calvin & Hobbes" comic book, which quickly evoked one of those fits of helpless and near-hysterical laughter. I must have spent the better part of an hour with that book, laughing practically nonstop. I wondered what the other patrons of the store thought, but I didn't particularly care then, nor do I now. Suffice it to say that "Calvin & Hobbes" translates very well into Italian.

I have always maintained that the three human qualities I most admire are courage, sensitivity, and humor, in that order. And so it was with great interest that I read this article in today's edition of Meridian Magazine, which I now share with my readers, whomever they might be.

(Note: The above post, in substantially the same form presented here, was sent as an e-mail to two of my Iranian friends, who I hope can put the article to good use.)


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