Lighten up. Seriously. by Rev. Seth Fisher

“A tired mom opened the front door of her home to find a young minister from the neighborhood who said, ‘I’m collecting donations for the new children’s home we’re building. I hope you’ll give what you can.’ The beleaguered woman said, ‘I’ll give you two boys, two girls, or one of each.’”

I’m not going to say it’s funny because it’s true. I really hope none of us are seriously ready to give our family members away. But there is truth in it. Between the pandemic and the politics and the usual winter blues, a lot of us are exhausted right about now. Our theme for February has been “Levity.” Someone might ask, “Why such a silly theme during such a serious time?” and the answer is in the question. When things are serious is when we need silliness the most. Life can get hard at times, and it’s a lot harder without humor–without taking a break from the work and worry every now and then. Lightening up every once in a while helps us get back some perspective and makes us stronger and more resilient. It not only makes life more bearable, it actually makes us better at life.

And I’m not just making that up. Laughter releases serotonin in our brains and increasing serotonin levels is exactly how anti-depressants work–but laughing doesn’t have any nasty side effects and you don’t have to clear anything with your insurance provider first. Studies show that happier people are more productive. And, I mean…come on. Unless you are in a black and while French film, being happy is just better than being unhappy!

The 2017 documentary The Last Laugh (trailer below, don’t miss the subtitles ) explores the idea of humor during and about the worst of times–specifically the holocaust. It opens with this quote from Heinrich Mann, “He who has cried enough, laughs.” We can try to look at the bright side of all of this. For example, many people have reconnected with family or gotten some much needed alone time. A lot of people have learned how to make sourdough and the environment has gotten a little bit of a break. Our nation is facing its problem with race in a way that it hasn’t in generations. We can look at this as an opportunity to learn to do some things better or create a “new normal.” We can take all of these things as reasons to keep our chins up and to stoically continue to fight on. And that’s all great. But we’ve reached a point where we’ve cried enough, and it’s time take a break and lighten up like our lives depend on it.

So do a stupid dance for your cat. Draw a picture of someone you miss with the caption, “Do you still look like this?” and mail it to them. Build a spaceship out of junk mail. Learn a magic trick. Have a paper airplane competition. Learn the lyrics of a favorite song in another language. Let that language be Pig Latin. Call someone and tell them a joke. Turn on the classical station, grab a chopstick and conduct a symphony. Make yourself into a toilet paper mummy (and celebrate the availability of toilet paper). Above all, laugh. And sure, wear a mask and socially distance and all that, but please, for the love of all that is holy, have a little fun. Seriously.

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[1] From the book Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plato_and_a_Platypus_Walk_Into_a_Bar

[2] Studies:  https://www.jneurosci.org/content/37/25/6125     https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_study_shows/

[3]The Last Laugh trailer:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/national/the-thing-about-a-joke-about-the-holocaust-is-jewish-comedians-on-the-darkest-comedy/2017/04/21/b16dc8b6-26d9-11e7-928e-3624539060e8_video.html