Recently, I attended the stage play, “Freud’s Last Session.” Set in London, 1939, it creates a hypothetical encounter between Sigmund Freud and C. S. Lewis. Lewis is thirtysomething; Freud is eighty-three and dying. Lewis is an enthusiastic Christian; Freud an inveterate atheist. Ensconced in Freud’s study, the two debate theology.
In the midst of point counterpoint, air raid sirens howl. London braces for Nazi Luftwaffe. Freud, dissipated by cancer, cannot walk to shelter. He and Lewis don gas masks. They huddle in terror. Then the radio announces the false alarm.
Conversation rekindles. But the mood has changed. The two tell jokes. They swap silly stories. They chuckle, giggle and roar. When gentlemanly decorum returns, Freud whispers, “terror requires relief.”
And that’s where their script ends and mine begins. “Terror requires relief.” For me, living in blindness is living in terror. Not always, mind you, but enough. I am often less curious than fearful of the unknown. I have reconciled to blindness but I hate being blind when I perceive the world as a dangerous, unforgiving place. I am afraid of the dark far less than I am afraid in the dark.
So I require relief. Require in a visceral, biological, fundamental way. Comic relief in the slapstick, the ridiculous, the ironic and the absurd. My sense of humor restores a semblance of equilibrium. For me, without humor this blind life would be unbearable.
My focus returns to Freud and Lewis. Given the cast of two, even I can keep the characters straight. And, while recognizing their ideological exclusivity, I conclude that whether my sense of humor arises from the unconscious or is bestowed by a higher power is immaterial. It’s just there. And for that, I remain episodically amused, precariously balanced and profoundly grateful.