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Laughter and forgiveness

I was talking with someone yesterday and it struck me how much she needs to lighten up and learn to laugh, especially at her own mistakes. And as I talked, I realized how much I  need this same thing.

I do love a good laugh, but when it comes to the serious things, I am very serious. Anything less seems like an affront to what is real. Being light about weighty things seems like the essence of disrespect and irresponsibility.

But there is obviously another side. Everyone knows that laughter has a healing power, and this theme runs throughout the Course. There is a kind of laughter at the things that seem dark and serious that is based on the idea that there is a larger positive, and compared to this larger positive, their seriousness shrinks to looking trivial, and their darkness transforms into simple nonsense.

This kind of laughter, then, rests on a vision of that greater positive, in light of which the negatives of life actually do begin to look trivial and nonsensical—i.e., laughable.

And isn’t that basically the same idea as forgiveness? Forgiveness says that there is something of enduring value, in light of which that so-called sin is not such a big deal, and can therefore be let go. It says there is something in the person who attacked me that is so valuable that his action is trivial by comparison. Or that there is something between us that is so solid and so sacred that our discord just pales in comparison.

Do you see how forgiveness and healing laughter are the same idea?

So I want to cultivate this kind of laughter and levity. I really need it. What I don’t want to do is cultivate derisive laughter. Actually, I don’t need to, as I’ve already raised that one to a fine art. I also don’t want to cultivate what I’ll call callous spiritual laughter, laughter that minimizes truly important things for the sake of being above it all. That sort of laughter creeps me out.

So today for my practice I’ve been calling to mind my concerns and saying, “I toss this away lightly and with happy laughter” (a line adapted from the Course). Sometimes I imagine the concern being like a piece of paper in my hand, that I then imagine tossing away, both lightly and with happy laughter. It feels good.