Laughing With

March 1, 2010

Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis.
~Jack Handey, “Deep Thoughts,” Saturday Night Live

Viktor Frankl writes:

The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living. Yet it is possible to practice the art of living even in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent.

Regina Spektor sings:

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

[..]

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party while listening to a good God-themed joke or
Or when the crazies say he hates us and they get so red in the head you think that they’re about to choke

God can be funny
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie
Who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus

God can be so hilarious

[..]

No one’s laughing at God
We’re all laughing with God

Dan doesn’t like this song, because he’s a devout atheist. But that’s because he’s getting distracted by the word “God,” which I find weird, since one of the strongest arguments atheists have is that the word “God” is literally meaningless (or simply expresses a feeling, like “Boo for murder!”).

But it doesn’t matter, because the song isn’t about God in the first place. It’s about the difference between tragedy and comedy, and how there is no difference. This is why I’ve taken to saying lately, only half in jest, that Romeo and Juliet is a comedy. Everyone in that play is just so silly. Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor (credibility!), writes that man’s ability to transcend his experience through humor is part of what makes us uniquely human.

And that’s the point of the song. Life is funny, especially the tragic parts.

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