A Little Light Musing: A Thalian Sourcebook of Sorts
By Andrew Lazo
Jesus says, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” And nothing reminds me so much of that simpler age than a good giggle or a tsunami of silliness that washes over me until I can barely breathe.
I have to admit, this (sometimes slightly off-color) series of George Washington memes has left me breathless with laughter since I saw it. I can’t stop chortling at this one, or this. “Sup, peasants?”
Of course, poetry often carries with it plenty of laughter. Billy Collins on “Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House” always sets my friends laughing. Read it aloud, and don’t forget to repeat the title, as deadpan as possible. I recommend his own reading of it. His “Hangover” also provides for good laughs in a bright-eyed room; here’s a muffled version that will still raise a smile.
My beloved recently introduced me to the joys of Shel Silverstein’s wonderful book Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook. Even after an exhausting day, we found ourselves giggling through several of these when we had energy for very little else. Try opening it anywhere; or start here for an NPR interview with some links to poems.
C.S. Lewis and his sort had quite an appreciation for such lightheartedness. As far back as 1931 Lewis remarked that, “It has also become a regular custom that Tolkien should drop in on me of a Monday morning and drink a glass. This is one of the pleasantest spots in the week. Sometimes we talk English school politics: sometimes we criticise one another’s poems: other days we drift into theology or ‘the state of the nation’: rarely we fly no higher than bawdy and ‘puns’.” One could only imagine the kind of jokes these friends would tell.
Tolkien too loved the fellowship of laughter, though it appears to have gotten raucous from time to time. In a letter to Lewis, he remarks, “I want noise often enough. I know no more pleasant sound than arriving at the [Bird and Baby] and hearing a roar, and knowing that one can plunge in.”
Indeed, Lewis lamented years later about how their laughter had diminished due to the death of Charles Williams. He said of Ronald Tolkien’s reaction to Williams’s humor: “Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald.” I know the feeling; laughter can perform a peculiar and even exponential kind of calculus amongst old friends.
Chesterton speaks of “the slow maturing of old jokes,” and surely even funerals can often bring families together in welcome and remembered mirth, albeit in the midst of great sadness. Not for nothing does a Raven become the “First Joke” in the newborn Narnia. Venus, Lewis reminds us, is a comic spirit. One can muse that mirth has much to do with love.
And so, heeding their advice, I plan to take some time this week to seek out those things that make me laugh, and to share them with those closest to me. If nothing else, a good hearty dose of belly-laughter makes us gulp air, helps us to catch us breath, and brings gladder tears than our times otherwise afford us. Laughter can assist us all to change in a most childlike way–no mean feat these days.
Postscript: The photo above was taken by my extraordinary friend Lancia E. Smith, who carries in her wise eyes a constant twinkle of merriment. This moment was in London, right after the ceremony welcoming C. S. Lewis into Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey; we were warmed by good pints of beer and better conversation in a pub just down the street. That fellowship we shared that day shall live immortal in my memory, and I’m glad beyond words that Lancia captured this moment of joy.
Andrew Lazo is a teacher, writer, and sought-after speaker on C.S. Lewis and the Inklings. Read more from him at his website: http://andrewlazo.com