By Meghan Peterson
The views stated here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff or other editors of this newspaper.
Mirth – from Old English myrgth, myrge (meaning merry): gladness or gaiety as shown by or accompanied with laughter (merriam-webster.com)
In my book, nothing beats the sound of belly laughing from my two young boys. On occasion, they instigate each other – resulting in kid-style guffaws. More often than not, they are laughing at and/or with me, as I burn pancakes for breakfast (I like to call them “crisped pancakes”), trip over paint brushes (thankfully, dry!) sporadically strewn across the hallway, slip on mismatched socks (that I have hypothesized they place strategically in Mommy’s high-traffic areas…like the kitchen and laundry room).
In fact, the more ridiculous the mishap is for Mommy, the more my two little comics fall into uncontrollable mirth – “gladness accompanied with laughter.” Indeed, glad they are – as they watch their Mommy. Inevitably, Mommy begins to belly laugh as well.
All this merriment is rooted in a foundational sense of humor. When you laugh, you are enacting your view of the world at that specific moment. That is, you are identifying what is strikingly odd, funny, extraordinary about the universe around you in ways that prompt you to process it in no other manner but laughter. Through laughter and mirth, you are expressing to yourself, those around you, and the world that you recognize the innate, beautiful silliness of human beings.
A sense of humor – and the laughter that issues from it – is both built on and fosters, settings of freedom, liberty. How is that, you ask? Seriously, we are talking about laughter here – not freedom. But can you have laughter (genuine – not coerced) without freedom? The short answer is no.
Throughout both American and world history, suppression of humor and comics has been a tactic deployed by totalitarian regimes to censor, limit and determine the parameters for what they deem appropriately “funny” or not. Instructions as to how and when to laugh (if at all) go to the core, bodily autonomy of a human to express joy, mirth, humor – in human fashion.
Now, back to laughter, mirth, and merriment. As our kids so intuitively demonstrate to us, let us not let go of a sense of humor – especially during life’s major challenges.
Let us embrace and cherish this festive season. And during times when you least think it, you may just find a silver lining of humor and comic relief.
Merry Christmas and a mirth-filled New Year ahead to you!