Ladies for Life

The power of healthy laughter

Posted on: November 6, 2008

When I went to college in the 1970s, the feminists on campus swooped me into their clique and told me they needed my help changing the world, and I was so flattered and naive I bought into it. More specifically, I bought into it for a while. What cured me more than anything else is that I started taking walks off campus every day. So, every day I got a dose of women walking down the street hand in hand with a husband, or playing tag with their kids, or visiting over the fence with a neighbor, and then I’d go back to the dorm and get a dose of bitterness and ideology. Every day I’d get a dose of women who were comfortable in their own skin, and then I’d go back to hang out with women who pretty much hated their own lives.

One day, sitting on my very 1970s bright orange-yellow bedspread, leaning up against a dorm wall plastered with mottoes such as “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world” (written in a phonetic approximation of Greek, no less), it hit me like a ton of bricks that I had never heard my feminist ‘friends’ laugh with joy. Not once. Nearly every day, away from college, I heard joyous laughter, healthy laughter, heart deep and loving, build-a-person-up laughter, but from the people who were serving as my mentors the closest to that they’d ever come was laughing at someone’s expense. It was mean laughter, cruel and sneering, superior, sometimes triumphant laughter. But it was always at somebody’s expense. There was no happiness in it.

I’d been raised in a secular household, and was living in a secular world, and in the secular world aiming for your own happiness tends to be have a really high priority. I mean, it’s huge. It’s so huge it’s almost everything. That there’s a whole lot of evidence in plain view that placing a priority on seeking your own happiness tends to make you harder to love, not to mention less desirable as a friend, and therefore far less likely to actually be happy, didn’t matter in the least, because it’s not something we saw.

So, here I was, living in a world where what was valued most was being happy, and I was using as my mentors people who weren’t happy. I decided I’d been an idiot. I also decided that I wanted what those women off campus had.

Those women off campus never chatted with me. They probably would have, if I’d approached them, but I didn’t quite know how to do it. So, they didn’t argue their point. They just glowed. It was enough.

A feminist line on traditional women is that they’ve just been kept in such a cocoon that they don’t know how bad the world is. In my experience (admittedly limited), I’ve found the opposite to be the case. The feminists I’ve known (I’m talking 1970s-type, NOW-variety feminists, not the Sarah Palin or Feminists for Life type feminists) tend to know less about real trouble because they tend to run from personal difficulties (they get in the way of that whole ‘finding myself and searching for happiness’ business). On the whole, it’s the ‘traditional’ women in the trenches, taking care of those with sorrows and sufferings and dangers and other trouble. Not all of them are Christian, of course, but I think back to my college days, and how we dismissed Christians as people with their heads in the clouds. We should have been looking in a mirror for that, I think.

I thought of that this Sunday, looking around church, which was full of joy and love and friendship, and knowing that the joy wasn’t because of circumstances, or even despite circumstances, and it certainly wasn’t from avoiding difficulty, because amongst us there are many burdens, including a lot that were quietly taken on voluntarily.

I never knew those women living near the campus, who were doing nothing more, or less, than living abundantly, authentically, fully. But they lured me out of a life I’m glad I left, and they did it to a large extent simply by overflowing with laughter: joyous laughter, healthy laughter, heart deep and loving, build-a-person-up laughter.

These days, of course, we have Bloggityville neighborhoods as well as physical ones. I look around at some of my favorite blogs, and sometimes they remind me of the women along the routes of my favorite off-campus walks. And I smile.


1 Response to "The power of healthy laughter"

I have found in the past couple of days I’ve been a little overly caught up in events. It’s nice to have something uplifting to remind me where things are outside of recent events. A little hearty laughter is good for all of us.

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