Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Years Resolutions 2015: To Laugh Often & Loud

To laugh often and much.
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children.
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends.
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others.
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition.
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
That is to have succeeded.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

The first line of the American author's poem "Success" reveals one of my two New Year's Resolutions for the 2015. I hope to laugh a lot this year. I hope to laugh with my students, friends, family and strangers. I love laughing out loud when I read something funny. I can't say that I am similar to my niece Grace who loves telling jokes, but she makes me laugh and smile when I hear them! Someone once quipped "laughter is good for the soul." Well, if that's true—and I believe it is—then it's also good for our spirituality. Ron Rolheiser writes "Spirituality is about what we do with our spirits, what we do with our souls." Amen.
I hope my resolution doesn't strike you as odd or strange. Who doesn't feel better after a deep laugh? Laughter never goes out of style. Jim Martin, SJ the culture editor at America Magazine agrees. In Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life he writes,
“Humor serves some important purposes,” he said. “First, it can remind you of your poverty of spirit. Laughing at yourself reminds you that you are a human being reliant on God just like anybody else.” For leaders, humor is essential, Martin said, “particularly in the religious world, where we all tend to think that we alone are doing God’s work.” 
We feel drawn to religious leaders with a sense of humor. It shows us that they understand their essential poverty of spirit and their own reliance on God. It shows humility, which is also essential in the spiritual life. You take God seriously, Jesus seriously and the gospel seriously, but you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously.”
I agree. A good sense of humor is essential as a teach in the classroom and as a coach on the field. This is why one of my favorite moments this past year involved making my students laugh very loud and very hard.

I think everyone looks like someone else. I love to share my visual musings with others and more often than not they concur. I realize it's important to be sensitive to how and if you are to share your findings with the guilty parties. This fall, I knew I had a worthy subject, who would not shy away from the comparison his face to that of a famous athlete. 
The day after the World Series Championship, I had to find a way to publicly acknowledge and congratulate the MVP Madison Bumgarner. I did so by introducing him next to Arthur the Aardvark, a popular cartoon character among children. Some students could see the match and other couldn't. No problem. It was all a foil to compare Alex, who I have taught for two years now, to the Panda. Pablo Sandoval.

The class roared in laughter. Alex shook his head in agreement. I believe this small bit of humor is why one of my students describe this class as "Loving."
My second resolution is to pay better attention. I want to harness my focus on what I am doing to be more mindful and present. I also believe that paying better attention will help me laugh more often. Some of the funniest jokes and quips from observations about our humanity. Take for example this video entitled "Golf Stereotypes." 

It is remarkably funny for those who play golf, because I know (and you will too) every single on of these stereotypes on the course. I even know which one I think my friends will say is me. It's easy (and fun) to laugh at others. It's equally important to laugh at oneself. NB: If you have not seen this yet and/or the one on pick-up basketball (if you play) posted above, stop reading and watch. 
Martin affirms this is a good thing about our nature. One that we share with the Lord. He writes, "If we believe that Jesus is fully human, as our theology tells us, then that means he had a sense of humor. You cannot be fully human without a sense of humor. That’s a robot, not a human being."

He adds, I believe God has a great sense of humor. Sometimes he gives you something like a nudge and says, Don’t take yourself so seriously! Humor is in fact an essential element in the mirth of creation. We can see how, in many matters in our lives, God wants to prod us into taking things a bit more lightly; to see the funny side of it; to get down off our pedestal and not to forget our sense of fun."

Some of the people I admire most are able to laugh often and much. It's one thing to be funny, it's another to find humor in everyday life. And I believe it's too important not to look for. That's why I'm going to pay more attention in 2015 for joy, humor and laughter.

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