Every year Carle Clinic, a local medical provider, sponsors a gathering of cancer survivors. It doesn’t sound like a very cheery group, so until this year I never attended. The first thing that surprised me was the sheer number of survivors. They filled the hall of a large convention center. Clearly a lot of people survive cancer.
The second surprise was the speaker. She has survived cancer not once but twice. In between she found time to serve a term as lieutenant governor of the state. It was a good talk, encouraging and good humored. After she spoke someone in the audience asked if she had considered running for governor.
Her reply was “No. I don’t like prisons.”
Anyone who can keep a sense of humor after experiencing both cancer and Illinois politics is a genuine survivor. There are some things we can change and should. There are others we must simply endure. It is easy to accept them sadly. It is better to laugh.
Shakespeare wrote, “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: … and one man in his time plays many parts.” One of those roles is surely that of the clown. There is something inescapably ridiculous about all of us.
Hitler and Stalin and the beloved leader strut and preen in their brief moments on stage. The suffering they cause is not funny. In the end they are as dead as their victims, and unlike the victims they are not honored. From a distance they are simply absurd. They are funny little men whose pretensions came to nothing.
There must be laughter in heaven about the people we idolize as celebrities. Famous now, they are half way to being forgotten while the headlines are still fresh. Trailing their cloud of paparazzi, they soon stumble off the stage of history.
There is a lot to laugh at, but not all laughter is healthy. A joke can be disguised anger. Humor that humiliates and is hurtful has turned malignant. No good can come of it.
Humor is at its best when we laugh at our self. After all, that is one joke we know better than anyone else.