Laugh Until It Hurts

Silliness apparently runs in my family. My mom, sister, and I traveled to San Diego last week. The most enjoyable part of our trip was neither the feats of marine mammals at Sea World nor the amazing Afghani food we ate, well, devoured (at Chopahn if anyone’s San Diego bound). The best moments had more to do with hobbits.

I don’t remember what inspired the first Golem impression of the trip, but that one inspired many others. They all had us laughing in that way that makes everyone around you in the restaurant either very envious or very nervous. The kind of laughter that makes you cry, the kind where you look at each other, not really sure why or whether the cause is hilarious enough to merit this reaction but nonetheless grateful for how good it feels.

This laughter differs from that invoked by even the funniest movie or most clever comedy routine. It has a refreshing quality, like dipping your soul in a mountain spring. No one would choose the Henry women over Robin Williams for a night of entertainment, yet when each of us curled her lips, rolled her eyes back in her head, and located her throatiest voice, we were, at least to ourselves, the funniest act around.

I suspect we could all use more of this breath-taking fun. I wish I could bottle it or write a recipe: mix three parts friends or family with two parts shared experience; add a day of relaxation and three drams silliness; mix.

The magic seems to arrive when it will, though, and the unexpectedness of finding yourself struggling for oxygen and wondering whether your abs will be sore the next day only makes the moment that much more precious.

Getting Ghoulish

Halloween is good for adults, better than vitamins and a full daily allowance of fiber. It gives us an excuse to be silly and creative for no reason—in public!

jack o'lanternOne of the departments in my building transformed its office into The Price Is Right, complete with products and tags that opened to reveal the cost of each item. In practical mode, recreating The Price Is Right logo and printing it on all those tags for one day’s entertainment would be deemed a waste of time, but in Halloween mode, it is awesome.

Halloween mode changes our approach to the day. We appreciate, honor, and enjoy each other’s wackiness. We anticipate and look for fun and unexpected things to appear in ordinary places—at work, at home, on the street.

I think we would all benefit from spending more time in Halloween mode. Too often we feel our actions have to be productive in order to be worthwhile. There’s a great passage in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that explains how the humans think they’re smarter than the dolphins because the dolphins play all day while humans accomplish things, and the dolphins think they’re smarter for the same reason.

Productivity isn’t bad, but its usefulness to our souls is limited. Very few of us light up after completing a task, no matter how useful, the way we do when the International Education office appears dressed as a group of loud, American tourists, complete with fanny packs and Hawaiian shirts.

Halloween gives us some time to enjoy rather than worry, to create rather than produce. We might consider granting ourselves that freedom more than once a year.