“Humor; it is a difficult concept.” Kirstie Alley as Lt. Saavik in The Wrath of Kahn
“Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25
I took literary criticism in graduate school. I didn’t pass it so much as I survived it. It was taught by an egg-head whose plane I couldn’t reach. Which suited the arrogant &^&^&* just fine.
The section I did retain something of was all about the different theories of humor. Here are the three I remember:
- Something Living Encrusted With Something mechanical – like when a sentient human being trips over something like a machine would.
- Humor as a Means of Social Control or Commentary –George Carlin leaps to mind. Or when someone in your group gets a bit out of line and you employ gentle ribbing.
- Pain + Distance = Humor; I recall a story about a new pastor who muffed spreading an elderly man’s ashes from a Cessna per his will. He didn’t account for the slipstream, and “Henry” blew back inside the plane and all over everyone. Including the widow. She told him that this will be funny some day. But not today.
Pain + Distance is why you’ll never hear a funny Holocaust joke. No amount of distance makes that funny.
For some reason, my funny bone gets activated whenever I go to a doctor’s office. Emergency rooms are guaranteed to start an episode. Just about anything to do with health.
For example, a friend lost half of his index finger to a stupid lawnmower accident. Once there was sufficient time passed and even he would kid about it, I started doing my AJ impressions. I’d hold up my index finger so you couldn’t see the top and start yelling, “I’m number half! I’m number half!”
When the cardiologist was telling me I needed a double bypass, that a stent wasn’t possible, he kept going on about how big the scar would be. It wasn’t something that could be helped. I realized he didn’t understand that I understood, so I told him, “Doc! I don’t care if you play Tic-Tac-Toe and carve your initials in my chest. Just bring me out the other side, OK?”
The poor nurse who had to explain to me the importance of walking must have had her head bitten off on a regular basis. She timidly encouraged me walk around the unit once, maybe twice a day, if I think I could handle it.
Once or twice? Every day? I had been doing 2 hours of cardio every day plus weights until a couple days before surgery. I smiled at her.
“Screw that! What’s the record?”
Little did I know. The young lady from rehab came to take me on my first walk. After loading all of my equipment, tubes, receptacles, etc. in a wheelchair for me to push, we set out. Beauty and the Borg. We finished one lap , and she asked how I was doing.
You’re kidding me, right? Let me know when YOU get tired. Off we went on lap two. We made it back to my room, and she faced me expectantly. I stared down into those deep, blue eyes, and…
“You know what, sweetheart? You’re looking a bit bushed. I think I’ll cut you loose.”
She helped me into bed. I slept the rest of the day.
In recovery I always had a wireless monitor hooked up so a nurse could keep an eye on me at all times. It only came off for a shower. I was walking back to her station to get hooked back up and saw my screen with just a line.
“Holy crap! Flat line! I’m dead!!”
She spun so fast I thought she’d drill right through the floor. I got a grinning mouth that couldn’t deny it was funny, but also narrowed eyes that told me she’d kill me with her bare hands if I wasn’t so cute.
When the nurse came to take out my chest tubes, they had been so painful I wasn’t thinking about what it would take to get them out. I just knew I wanted them gone. After laying out her paraphernalia, she gave me one of those big, nursey smiles that made me think she was my friend.
“OK, Pumpkin. Take three BIG breaths and hold the third. ‘Kay?”
On the third breath she yanked out all three, each one about two feet long, in one – maybe two – nanoseconds. If I’d have been a chainsaw, I would’ve started. My wife laughed. She laughed. I didn’t. I realized too late her smile was that of a sadist.
Distance. Which is why you’re laughing right now.
Why do I do it? It’s probably a defense mechanism. Which one? Let’s go back to literary criticism. I’m probably trying to trying to create the distance to keep nerves at bay.
Another reason could be the social commentary part. By making fun of AJ’s lopped off finger or my own health problems, I’m telling both AJ and myself that we’re both bigger than our maladies. We’re both…MORE than our maladies. Having half an index finger or my three skids toward the grave are not what defines us. What defines us is what we do after. What defines us is what we give up to God.
What matters is that we tell God this is nothing, because He has us. We keep our humor in the face of trials, because we’ve got Him. Humor CAN be a difficult concept. It doesn’t mean we don’t care; it’s just that we know how it ends, so we can still have His joy in our hearts.
Or, in my case, what’s left of my heart. J