Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday's Words for July 22, 2009

Many years ago, when I was still just a wee child, we got a reel-to-reel tape recorder. If I close my eyes I can picture it. The thing was massive, probably two foot square, and it was heavy, too. This machine was state-of-the-art when my father purchased it in 1961, his one luxury from the estate his mother had left him. He had divided that tiny inheritance equally with my mother, and she had bought a sewing machine (which she used with alacrity before my father died and rarely thereafter).

This tape recorder rendered many hours of entertainment and dream-fulfillment. With it, my father ventured into a part time money-making business he called “Wedding Bells”. For a small but adequate fee, he would record your wedding for you. Keep in mind my father passed in 1963. He had definitely been a man ahead of his time.

After my father’s death, my brother used the tape recorder, with his friends, to produce what I would have to dub radio-plays. I got to provide some sound effects in these endeavours. I particularly recall that the sound of breaking glass was produced by having all of our cutlery in a metal roast pan which I then upended onto the tile floor on cue.

For myself, when I was a little older (probably around ten or so), I would use this marvellous machine to listen to whatever tapes happened to be on hand. My brother and sister had recorded songs off the radio, there had been a few tapes purchased—I think my daddy loved drum and bugle corps and classical music, as well as Benny Goodman. But one tape in particular that I recall was of an address given by a psychologist named Doctor Murray Banks.

Flash forward to 2009 and imagine my delight, when a search via Google just as I was writing this essay hit pay dirt. I found a number of uploads of this very same wise and entertaining man on youtube—I recognized his voice the instant I heard it—and the very speech I had absorbed so many years ago.

If you have time, look him up there, and have a listen. The name of the presentation is “How to live with yourself…or what to do until the psychiatrist comes.” There are seven parts in all. You can tell that this was a speech given in the 1960s. Some of his references are more than a little dated. But the information at the base of this talk is pure gold.

Yes, I was a strange child, listening to an adult lecture of what is important and what people want in life. There are many things I can recall from this presentation, but the one nugget that has always stayed with me, more than any other is this: the human body is incapable of producing laughter and ulcers at the same time. Not just unlikely to, but incapable of. This, Dr. Banks asserts, is the most important chemical law in the universe. He also calls laughter the “sunshine of the soul”.

The ability to laugh is one of the greatest abilities in the world. I shudder to think where I would be today if not for the abundance of laughter in my life, if not for my sense of humor. I laugh exuberantly and often. I laugh at myself—I really do, and it’s a fortunate thing indeed that I keep myself supplied with plenty of raw material so that I may continue to do so.

Sometimes I’ll think of something funny as I’m driving, and get laughing so hard I’m nearly in tears. People look at me funny, of course, but that just usually makes me laugh harder.

My beloved and I laugh together, nearly every single day. Oh, not for hours or even minutes on end. But I tell you without a word of a lie that something, every day, gives us a good chuckle.

The more you laugh, the easier it is to laugh. Laughing is one of the few things in life that is worth a lot more than it costs, and gives much more than it takes.
One of the problems today, I believe, with all the heightened security measures, gloomy economic forecasts and plenitude of bad news in the news is the feeling I have that people aren’t laughing any more.

I understand. But that doesn’t mean I have to accept as unchangeable that sad fact. Yes, it’s hard to laugh when you’re hurting. But I promise you, laughter will ease your pain.

Reckless Abandon Now Available

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