A Bucket Full of Laughter
Chapter 1: LOLing should not be abbreviated.
by Jane Tawel
July 20, 2015
When did I stop laughing so much? When did I lose the ability to laugh at myself? When did I stop trying to make other people laugh? I remember my Grandma and Grandpa Gordon and my uncles and aunts and cousins, gathered, and there being seemingly endless days in which all we did from morning to night was laugh and laugh and laugh together. We laughed at each other, at ourselves, together at things, during board games, and slide shows, and walks, and boat rides, and snowball fights, and Christmas gift openings. Don’t you remember those few friends you’ve had, who whenever you were together, you laughed until tears came out your eyes or snot out of your nose? I remember giggle-fests with my kids as we lay in the big bed singing silly songs. My kids and I had lots of good laughs in the car, in the swimming pool, at the dinner table. When did we all get so serious?
There were times of course that I did used to be kinda’ mean when I was so keen on making the crowd giggle and guffaw, and though I don’t mean to be flippant, well, actually, maybe I should be, but seriously, oops there I go again. But ridiculously, I need to laugh more and help others find their way back to laughing as often as possible. I love to laugh. You know the scene in “Mary Poppins”, you can sing along right now I bet. I want to spend more time on the ceiling.
I have said it before and will say it again, if only we would stop robbing the story of God of its outrageous sense of humor. All great myths, all great literature, have humor — irony, slapstick, word play, satire, etc. And someone said recently that if only the Germans had had a sense of humor, they would have laughed that ridiculous little man off the stage. John Lennon imagined a world where as Saint Rodney King said, “we all just got along”, but imagine a world where we laughed all the naked emperors off the stage and put the comedians in charge instead.
I have found lately that I not only have lost a large portion of my sense of humor, but I have lost a large portion of all five of the other senses. I think this hit home on our recent trip to Bryce and Zion National Parks. When you vacation in a place where you are ripped away from all your normal busy work, and in a place where the sights are beyond your wildest imaginings, then you become more aware of how turned off your senses are on a day by day basis. It probably also helps that I am currently re-reading The Phantom Tollbooth — one of those children’s books best read by adults — like most truly classic children’s books. The Phantom Tollbooth at minimum is about a boy who has given up on learning because it is so boring and who is magically transported to a world in which the five senses as well as the use of words and numbers are anything but normal and boring. The Phantom Tollbooth is laugh out loud hilarious and also very philosophical and illuminating in many “a-ha” ways.
I have set myself a bucket list goal and as you could guess if you know me, it is not like most of those lists that include things like sky diving (God forbid!) or safaris (I really need to remember to play the lottery before I can win it.) My bucket list for today includes one item:
- Really see. Really listen. Really taste. Really touch. Really smell.
I have two friends who recently helped me start to really listen. I never ever get to see these two pals because one lives right up the street and one lives far away. I found myself in the last week, being able to spend separate, short, delightful times with both Janene Khanchalian, my neighbor, and Josh Long, my long-distance fellow English-geek friend. Both of these gifted me with intellectual stimulation, wisdom, interesting conversation, and spiritual insights but here is what I am treasuring in remembering our little moments in time together. Both Janene and Josh have wonderful, explosive, unique, totally uninhibited, childlike, laughter attacks. I found myself secretly sucking in and surreptitiously enjoying the sound of their laughter. I had nothing to do with making them laugh, you understand, they were laughing at something inner, something they were saying about themselves or about life that “tickled” them. In each case, it was like watching a small child open a gift and be surprised into explosive enchanted giggles. “Ah, for me? How fantastic! Oh Goodie!”
Janene’s laugh starts like a little bark and then it’s as if the little laughter dog escapes from her mouth and goes yipping out into the atmosphere. She has a rather feminine rumble that follows the little bark, and I imagine Tom Bombadil sounds a bit like that, though deeper, when he laughs. When Janene chuckles, she sort of dips her head and then looks around hoping she might discover where the little laughter dog escaped to. There is an absolutely naive quality to Janene’s laugh that is like the purest, clearest water, and I found myself greedily drinking it in.
Josh has the most adorable elf-like demeanor and his laugh is like an attack of elven squiggles all over his face. With Josh, it is as if something has invaded from the inside out and his eyes pop wide open in pure delight as if he has no idea what is about to happen but he is pretty excited to experience this thing called laughter. And then after the eyes register that something exciting is coming, his whole face has a sort of “uh-oh, roller coaster ahead!” look. His mouth bursts open in cascading guffaws held back only loosely by the most beatific but mischievous wide-hearted smile. It is like a cavalry of clowns is riding all over his features. Victor Hugo may have been speaking of Josh, when he said, “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” When Josh laughs, you feel like you have just watched a perfect summer day unfold in a human face. His infectious delight in whatever he is experiencing in the moment is a disease you desperately want to catch.
Both Josh and Janene seem absolutely caught off guard to find laughter exploding out of their mouths as if they didn’t plan it at all, but it’s a really pleasant surprise and they want to bring you in on it. They hope you will soon experience such a lovely moment. That’s the nice thing about both Janene and Josh. They really have no idea what a gift their very present laughter is to the person with them. They are just being who they are and neither has a single ounce of judgment towards the rather sensually disheveled, over-thinking human who feels insecure and feeble in the space she’s been given. But their ha-ha-ha’s are like the miniature shouts of Whoville, piercing through the iron veil of serious, thoughtful big people like me, and, who might one day like the Who’s, change the world, one gasping giggle at a time.
When I was separately with these two friends, I caught myself getting quiet and hoping to hear the sound of Josh and Janene’s laugher, and then I found I was really listening to something — not music, not a concert, not a show, not someone talking, not noise, — but just something in my world. And I was really listening and looking for the first time in a long time. I was just using my senses without any thought or program or intentions but just pure enjoyment. And in just those wee moments of listening, there was no guilt, no stress to get something done, no need to come to some agreement, to teach or learn, no time checks; there was just being in the moment with a gorgeous sound. And my brain was pleasantly empty because my heart was beautifully full.
Later, I found myself wanting to hoard Josh and Janene laughter and store it for later. Remember when you lived in cold climates and someone went to Florida for the Christmas break and they brought you back a can of sunshine? I wished I could put Janene’s and Josh’s laughter in little cans, and open them as needed. A little pick me up. A tonic. A reminder that life is good if we can laugh.
And sure enough, I have found myself over the past week, in solitude,(although I think once I was in line at Vons and started giggling before I put my non-crazy person face back on) — I find I am pulling out the memories of those particular and unique gifts of laughter and listening in my mind’s eye or rather mind’s ear, enjoying the feeling of being overcome by the memories of senses and the sound of laughter and of beatific faces alive in joy.
Kahlil Gibran says rightly, “In the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter, and the sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” Thank you Josh and Janene, and all my friends, and family, and children, and pets for refreshment in laughter. I owe you one. I owe you a lot. May your buckets fill with laughter and your days be full of really seeing, really hearing, really touching, tasting, and smelling– and really, really, really living.