I laugh a lot at school. Some students think I’m crazy. Sometimes I will spend a minute laughing about something. Or two. I’ll watch the clock and go with it. I tell my students it’s because of dramatic irony, because I know things they don’t. The laughter is compounded because many of them won’t believe, or aren’t capable or willing of understanding it yet. In a few years, some of them will get it.
Yesterday someone asked what literal meant. I said, “not symbolic, not figurative.” Then I told the class that last night I was so hungry that I could eat a horse, and so I did. I told them that I shot my neighbor’s horse and ate the whole thing. A class debate began. The equestrians among them were pissed.
After a few minutes of this, I asked one of the most literal scholars among them: “Do you really think I ate an entire horse last night?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I mean, you like reading…”
So I laugh. It’s true. I do like reading. Kurt Vonnegut has said that “Laughing or crying is what a human being does when there’s nothing else he can do.” Stephen Colbert has said that he has found it physically impossible to be laughing and be afraid at the same time. Publicly, I choose laughter. I cry my tears alone.
I was reading this morning (I mean, I do like it…) and ran across a description in Brian Doyle’s book Grace Notes. Doyle writes about being in college and getting a concussion in a basketball game and having his roommate check on him every hour. This is how he describes his roommate:
…he was the most cheerful boy in the history of the galaxy and had been a wrestling champion famous for laughing during matches, which infuriated his opponents, which may have led to their defeat, which would not be the first time joy outwitted rage.”
I love that…“not be the first time joy outwitted rage.”
Need to get out of this chair and drive to school. This year has seen a lot less rage and hostility and negativity. It has been creeping back in, a little like rats hiding in the shadows. But I think that joy can outwit rage. I think that joy can combat negativity, ignorance, pessimism, apathy. There will still be a fight, but I believe that joy can outwit many things. And I feel like the championship wrestler laughing at his opponent.
And so I laugh. And I read. And I laugh long and hard when people tell me that laughter isn’t funny and that reading is stupid.
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