A Bucket Full of Laughter

bucket

A Bucket Full of Laughter

Chapter 1: LOLing should not be abbreviated.

by Jane Tawel

July 20, 2015

When did I stop laughing so much? When did I lose the ability to laugh at myself? When did I stop trying to make other people laugh?  I remember my Grandma and Grandpa Gordon and my uncles and aunts and cousins, gathered, and there being seemingly endless days in which all we did from morning to night was laugh and laugh and laugh together. We laughed at each other, at ourselves, together at things, during board games, and slide shows, and walks, and boat rides, and snowball fights, and Christmas gift openings. Don’t you remember those few friends you’ve had, who whenever you were  together, you laughed  until tears came out your eyes or snot out of your nose? I remember giggle-fests with my kids as we lay in the big bed singing silly songs. My kids and I had lots of good laughs in the car, in the swimming pool, at the dinner table. When did we all  get so serious?

laughing  funny

There were times of course that I did used to be kinda’ mean when I was so keen on making the crowd giggle and guffaw, and though I don’t mean to be flippant, well, actually, maybe I should be,  but seriously, oops there I go again. But ridiculously,  I need to laugh more and help others find their way back to laughing as often as possible.  I love to laugh. You know the scene in “Mary Poppins”, you can sing along right now I bet.  I want to spend more time on the ceiling.

tooles

I have said it before and will say it again, if only we would stop robbing the story of God of its outrageous sense of humor. All great myths, all great literature,  have humor — irony, slapstick, word play, satire, etc.  And someone said recently that if only the Germans had had a sense of humor, they would have laughed that ridiculous little man off the stage.  John Lennon imagined a world where as Saint Rodney King said, “we all just got along”, but imagine a world where we laughed all  the naked emperors off the stage and put the comedians in charge instead.

gordie   lisa

I have found lately  that I not only have lost a large portion of my sense of humor, but I have lost a large portion of all five of the other senses.  I think this hit home on our recent trip to Bryce and Zion National Parks. When you vacation in a place where you are ripped away from all your normal busy work, and in a place where the sights  are beyond your wildest imaginings, then you become more aware of how turned off your senses are on a day by day basis.  It probably also helps that I am currently re-reading The Phantom Tollbooth — one of those children’s books best read by adults — like most truly classic  children’s books.  The Phantom Tollbooth at minimum is about a boy who has given up on learning because it is so boring and who is magically transported to a world in which the five senses as well as the use of words and numbers are anything but normal and boring.  The Phantom Tollbooth  is laugh out loud hilarious and also very philosophical and  illuminating in many “a-ha” ways.

I have set myself a bucket list goal and as you could guess if you know me, it is not like most of those lists that include things like sky diving (God forbid!) or safaris (I really need to remember to play the lottery before I can win it.)  My bucket list for today includes one item:

  1. Really see. Really listen. Really taste. Really touch. Really smell.

kids   bryce

I have two friends who recently helped me start to really listen.  I never ever get to see these two pals because one lives right up the street and one lives far away.  I found myself in the last week, being able to spend separate,  short, delightful times with both Janene Khanchalian, my neighbor, and Josh Long, my long-distance fellow English-geek friend. Both of these gifted me with intellectual stimulation, wisdom, interesting conversation, and spiritual insights but here is what I am treasuring in remembering our little moments in time together.  Both Janene and Josh have wonderful, explosive, unique, totally uninhibited, childlike, laughter attacks.  I found myself secretly sucking in and surreptitiously enjoying the sound of their laughter.  I had nothing to do with making them laugh, you understand, they were laughing at something inner, something they were saying about themselves or about life that “tickled” them.  In each case, it was like watching a small child open a gift and be surprised into explosive enchanted giggles.  “Ah, for me? How fantastic! Oh Goodie!”

Janene’s laugh starts like a little bark and then it’s as if the little laughter dog escapes from her mouth and goes yipping out into the atmosphere. She has a rather feminine rumble that follows the little bark, and I imagine Tom Bombadil sounds a bit like that, though deeper, when he laughs. When Janene chuckles, she sort of dips her head and then looks around hoping she might discover where the little laughter dog escaped to. There is an absolutely naive quality to Janene’s laugh that is like the purest, clearest water, and I found myself greedily drinking it in.

Josh has the most adorable elf-like demeanor and his laugh is like an attack of elven squiggles  all over his face. With Josh, it is as if something has invaded from the inside out and his eyes pop wide open in pure delight  as if he has no idea what is about to happen but he is pretty excited to experience this thing called laughter.   And then after the eyes register that something exciting is coming, his whole face has a sort of  “uh-oh, roller coaster  ahead!”  look. His mouth bursts open in cascading guffaws  held back only loosely by the most beatific but mischievous wide-hearted smile.  It is like a cavalry of clowns is riding all over his features. Victor Hugo may have been speaking of Josh, when he said, “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” When Josh laughs, you feel like you have just watched a perfect summer day unfold in a human face. His infectious delight in whatever he is experiencing in the moment is a disease you desperately want to catch.

Both Josh and Janene seem absolutely caught off guard to find laughter exploding out of their mouths as if they didn’t plan it at all, but it’s a really pleasant surprise and they want to bring you in on it. They hope you will soon experience such a lovely moment. That’s the nice thing about both Janene and Josh.  They really have no idea what a gift their very present laughter is to the person with them. They are just being  who they are and neither has a single ounce of judgment towards the rather sensually disheveled,  over-thinking human who feels insecure and feeble in the space she’s been given. But their ha-ha-ha’s are  like the miniature shouts of Whoville, piercing through the iron veil of serious, thoughtful big people like me, and, who might one day like the Who’s, change the world, one gasping giggle at a time.

When I was separately with these two friends, I caught myself getting quiet and hoping to hear the sound of Josh and Janene’s laugher, and then I found I was really listening to something — not music, not a concert, not a show, not someone talking, not noise, — but just something in my world. And I was really listening and looking  for the first time in a long time. I was just using my senses without any thought or program or intentions but  just pure enjoyment. And  in just those wee moments of listening,  there was no guilt, no stress to get something done, no need to come to some agreement, to teach or learn, no time checks; there was  just being in the moment with a gorgeous sound. And my brain was pleasantly empty because my heart was beautifully  full.

Later,  I found myself wanting to hoard Josh and Janene  laughter and store it for later. Remember when you lived in cold climates and someone went to Florida for the Christmas break and they brought you back a can of sunshine?  I wished I could put Janene’s and Josh’s laughter in little cans, and open them as needed.  A little pick me up. A tonic. A reminder that life is good if we can laugh.

And sure enough, I have found myself over the past week, in solitude,(although I think once I was in line at Vons and started giggling before I put my non-crazy person face back on) — I find I am pulling out the memories of those particular and unique gifts of laughter and listening in my mind’s eye or rather mind’s ear, enjoying the feeling of being overcome by the memories of senses and the sound of laughter and of beatific faces alive in joy.

Kahlil Gibran  says rightly, “In the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter, and the sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”  Thank you Josh and Janene, and all my friends, and family, and children, and pets for refreshment in laughter. I owe you one. I owe you a lot. May your buckets fill with laughter and your days be full of really seeing, really hearing, really touching, tasting, and smelling– and really, really, really living.

clare and me laughing

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Independence Day: Get Out There and Have Some Fun!

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A Fun Day of Freedom

By Jane Tawel

July 3, 2015

So I’m thinking about the 4th of July and similar holidays back round the bend like Memorial Day and up round the bend, like Veterans Day. They are serious holidays about serious things, and that is absolutely rightly so. But when I think of my many past Independence Days and hopefully my future ones, like tomorrow, I think of fun. I think of happiness, family, friends, food, fireworks, and sunburns. And fun.

So the equation seems to be something like:

People die for my freedom = I get to live a life of fun.

And in case you think I’m being sarcastic, I’m really not. Soldiers went to various wars for our country, many gave their lives on the battlefield, many are giving their lives daily here on the streets as unemployed vets, and I get to celebrate the days they earned by having fun.

Of course as Christians, this is an easy peasy addition problem, right?

Jesus died for my freedom = I get to live a life of fun.

See, this only really makes sense I think when you think about all the countries where people will not be having fun tomorrow because their citizens are not free. And then, of course, our religion, only makes sense when you think of all the other religions whose practitioners are not free who don’t ever really understand how fun it is to worship the God of Jesus. The God whose Son said, “my yoke is light”. And the God of the apostle who said, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1) Don’t get me wrong, sin is never really as fun as non-sin, so know your options and live a life of goodness and light, but that’s another blog for another day. Today is the day before the day we celebrate our nation’s independence.

So why as my particular nation and why as my particular religious group, do we keep enslaving ourselves? My friend Denise shared this picture on face book today:

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Why as fellow Americans and fellow Judeo-Christians are we sitting so often in the third row? Do we as that Jewish prophetess sang, see freedom as “nothing left to lose” or do we as Christ said, see freedom as “everything to gain” if we do not lose our soul in the process?

I like to play around with this vision of my gathering together all the leaders in the world. I bring them together on a beautiful sun-soaked day, about seventy-five degrees perfect. No one is allowed to send regrets or back out, not even McConnell. All the world’s Top Dogs, have to show up, in their bathing suits (no speedos, no bikinis please especially if you are from Italy or France). I take all of the world leaders in their trunks and tank suits to the beach. And they all have to sit with each other and build sand castles. I provide kosher hotdogs and vegan potato salad; they bring the desserts (except Kim Jong-un, we just want him to show up). And they can’t say anything to each other except fun stuff, like “Ooooh, Angela, I love that beach wrap, where did you buy it?” Or, “hey, Ernest B.K., wanna go jump in the waves?” “Francis, care for another wine cooler?”

And at the end of this glorious day, we all celebrate a new Independence Day by watching Jinping’s amazing firework display. (He spent a lot of money on them but he did get a good deal because they were made in China. —- bah, dum-dum.)

And in my vision I never once have to point out that they have lived too long in a world that builds houses on the sand. But that today, God calls them to build houses on The Rock with foundations of mercy, and justice, and love and freedom – foundations of a Nation that will last forever.

When they go home tonight, they will be changed forever because they celebrated a day of fun with new friends.

What if Christians threw an Independence Day like the Bible used to suggest? (without much luck I’m afraid in being actually executed, but…..) Let’s not even aim big for a whole year of Jubilee, a time of “emancipation and restoration” –how about just one day – come as you are, take it or leave it true “Freedom Day”.

What about a day of Jubilee where all debts are cancelled, every one in bankruptcy gets their house back, and student loans are paid by our defense budget. What about a day when any thing extra is shared with any one who doesn’t have enough? What if we had a day of Jubilee when we celebrated everyone’s marriage, no divorces were allowed, and all the nursing home folk were let out and got to come home? What if every one is given the day off, even the store clerks because no one wants to go shopping any way? What if all the prisoners got freed, either to their families or some solid therapeutic living conditions? What if all the homeless folk got a little trailer to park in Walmart parking lots, and were given a part time job? What if all the doctors got a bonus for every new patient they took who couldn’t pay? What if all the pastors and priests and rabbis had to get a day job? What if all the illegal immigrants didn’t have to get a second job to make ends meet? What if all the farmers were given back their own land with the understanding no more nasty chemicals allowed? What if all the sweat shop workers and housecleaners got free pedi-manis? What if all the teachers got a golden parachute and congress didn’t? What if every one just laid down their weapons and took up their surfboards?

Wouldn’t we have FUN?!

Wouldn’t that be a world worthy of a rainbow flag? A rainbow that celebrates no more floods, no more earth destroying wickedness, no more hate? A world God can celebrate because He is the Leader?

Freedom is not free. It costs somebody something. It is costing me something today as well but it should cost something different maybe. Freedom should cost us our respect for others and our empathy for others. It should cost us something especially for those in this world who do not have enough to eat, or do not have safety, respect, love or freedom. And that does include people in These United States, by the way.

Freedom should cost me my extra dollars, no really it should cost me some of my “needed” dollars. It should cost me my empathy, no it should cost me tears and sleepless nights in prayer. It should cost me my free time to learn more, work more and serve more for others. Freedom should cost me my stress and worry and anger because I was freed to have fun. And it should cost me my pride because I have had to do very, very little for my freedom. People willing to die for my freedom in this country did it all. Jesus, willing to die for all the world, did it all.

So here are your questions to answer for the day before Independence Day.

  1. Fill in the blank:

Wouldn’t it be fun if the world ____________________________.

  1. Who could I stop being prejudiced against if I spent a fun day with

them at the beach?

  1. Who do I owe my freedom to and how can I bless him / her today? How do I bless my elders? How do I bless my God?
  1. Multiple Choice: What could I give up in order to have more fun?
    1.  Greed
    2. Stress
    3. Worry
    4. Hate
    5. All of the Above
  1. Please write a short essay on:

What does it profit me, if I gain the world, but lose my soul in the process?

Now, you can take off tomorrow to celebrate Independence Day and get out there and enjoy good food, good family and good friends! But Remember: Jesus flew no one’s flag, but he waved a banner every day – “His banner over us is Love”. So have some fun for God’s sake!

That’s an order, Soldier.