Laugh ‘til You Cry, Cry ‘til You Laugh

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.

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4 Responses to Laugh ‘til You Cry, Cry ‘til You Laugh

  1. bethfinke says:

    Funny (excuse the pun) but I was just thinking about humor today, and how I shudder when someone tells a joke about blindness. “You’re lucky you can’t see this” when someone walks in with their hair or clothing askew, “Good thing you’re not driving” when I order a drink. Then there’s the classic about the blind guy giving his guide dog a treat after the dog makes a mistake in traffic or the relatively new classic about the airplane pilot walking a guide dog out of a plane. I feel like I have a good sense of humor, but I can’t laugh at jokes about blindness. Maybe I’m just oversensitive?

    • Jeff Flodin says:

      I know you have a great sense of humor, Beth, because I’ve heard it live and I read your writings. I too cringe at jokes where the humor is at the expense of its subject or object. I consider I have the license to poke fun at myself for unintended slapstick, like when I asked the statue for directions to the Art Institute. Or when my efforts to pass for sighted went unintentionally awry. Or if arrogance, pride or stubbornness contribute to a faux pas. I don’t always laugh at the time that my ego is bruised. Upon reflection, I might chuckle. Still, the blind guy who walks into the bar with his brand new guide dog and expresses shock when it’s pointed out that his dog is a Chihuahua doesn’t really tickle my funny bone. As ever, thank you, Beth, for your unwavering readership and sensitive, authentic comments.

  2. becky says:

    Agree. I love to laugh but as my son’s third grade teacher said .. fun isn’t fun unless its fun for everyone. It has such a different feel to laugh with someone about something funny that has occurred rather than to feel laughed at or about a group of people.

  3. I don’t know how I missed this post, it’s great.

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