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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lewis Mumford

"Humor is our way of defending ourselves from life's absurdities by thinking absurdly about them."

American Literary Critic, Historian, Philosopher
1895 - 1990

Life is full of absurd, strange and inconceivable happenings that could drive us insane if we did not have a sense of humor.  My wife told me a story today about an experience she had last weekend at a Barnes & Noble store we visit regularly.  She had made three separate purchases and written three separate checks when she discovered a fourth item she wanted to buy.  When she presented her fourth check in less than 2 hours, the computer system rejected it.  When the manager was called, she acted like my wife had written a bad check and treated her rudely.  My wife's response was to laugh at the absurdity of the situation and the stupidity of the manager before politely telling the manager that she would take her money and shop elsewhere.  Sometimes all we can do is laugh, because if we didn't we would go mad.  There was absolutely no excuse for the rude behavior of the manager.

I have worked in health care for over thirty-five years and have talked with lots of nurses about how they use humor to help them cope with the pain and death they saw daily.  They call it gallows humor.  Humor is one of the best ways of coping with the absurdities in our lives.

Winner of
The National Book Award
for Non-fiction (1962)
This past week I was giving a speech and a woman came up to me after the speech and told me how I had done a great job.  Her parting words were to tell me that I needed to take care of my health.  As I watched her walk away all I could do was laugh.  I know she meant well, but the statement came out of the blue and she knew nothing about my health.

Laughter is a powerful way of coping with the challenges we face.  Have you ever been rejected by a publisher or an art gallery?  Then take a deep breath and laugh at the absurdity of the situation.  Have critics ever given your creative work a bad review?  Then take a moment and laugh.  Are you unhappy with your work?  Instead of beating yourself up with negative self-talk, take a deep breath and laugh.  Find the absurdity in the pain you feel.