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The funny side of life

April 19, 2002|By Basil Bell, special to this newspaper

Responsibility can be a terrible weight, whether our responsibility is for children or duties or a thousand things. In the mercy of God He has given to us humor to help lighten that weight.

When someone in Lincoln's cabinet made a joke during the Civil War, someone rebuked him and Lincoln said, "Gentlemen, if I couldn't joke I'd die."

Religious people are often afraid of humor because they understand that it must be used at the right time, in the right way and in the right manner. When humor is used to drag other people down, then it is not appropriate. But when humor pokes fun at ourselves or the human condition, it is appreciated…

Norman Cousins, one of the editors of the Saturday Evening Post, wrote a book called "An Anatomy of an Illness."

Cousins was sentenced to death by his doctor. But he didn't accept the verdict and began to read and read. Through his reading he learned that pressure and strain and weariness can sap the body of its normal vitality and lay it open to disease. Continuous fatigue has probably slain more people than all the germs of creation.

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If pressure, anxiety and strain sap vitality, then, he wondered, what the happier feelings such as joy and love and laughter and mirth could do.

So he got all the funniest books that he could find, such as "Cheaper by the Dozen." He got funny old movies. He checked out of the hospital and went to stay in a hotel. He found it was much cheaper and he got a lot more rest. Plus his wife cooked for him and she put into practice some of the nutritional tips that he had been learning.

There in his hotel room he read the funny books and saw the funny movies and he found that as he laughed it gave him the capacity to relax and to sleep without the use of drugs. Then he tried some other natural therapies and he recovered, to the amazement of the medical fraternity.

The Bible says, "He who is of a merry heart has a continual feast, but a broken spirit dries up the bones."

Your capacity to laugh will aide in healing, while fear, anxiety, hatred and depression sap the vitality. They constrict you. The heart and digestion do not work properly and you are prone to disease. Probably 90 percent of functional diseases are caused by the imagination. We are not a body plus a mind plus a spirit. We are a unity of body-mind-spirit. We must care for the whole person.

Humor can help us see the lighter side of even our hard experiences. I like the story told by the preacher Charles Spurgeon. He once preached to a mean church. After preaching, he handed around his hat in order to receive a love offering, but it came back empty.

He looked in the hat and turned it upside down. Pressed it in the crown a bit and again turned it upside down and nothing fell out. He told the congregation, "Let us pray." He prayed, "Lord I thank Thee that I got my hat back safely from this congregation."

Art Linkletter was right when he said, "Kids say the darndest things." Like the little boy who was asked to draw the holy family leaving Bethlehem to Egypt. So, the boy draws the donkey and Joseph and Mary, the baby Jesus and a big black dot. Afterwards the sabbath school teacher asks, "What's that big black dot?" The boy said, "It says take Mary and the child and flee. That's the flea."

Then there was the little girl who wasn't quite sure about the Lord's Prayer. She said it like that this, "Our Father, which art in heaven, how do you know my name?" That was better then the little boy who prayed, "Our Father who art in heaven, Harold be Thy name."

Humor has its place.

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