Sleeping Laughter

Several nights ago, a dream crossed those dim boundaries between the sleeping and the waking. I don’t know what cracked escapade my dream played for me, but something certainly struck my funny bone. I clutched my gut, laughter of the sort that pins a stitch in your side. Such a deep laughter I woke myself. My wee hour outburst startled Miska, jolting her upright, “Are you okay?” she asked groggily, patting her hand around the bed in search of me. The next morning, she told me how she hadn’t known whether I was laughing or crying.

I was laughing, most definitely laughing.

Some dreams we claw after, grasping for the fantasy or the happiness, those illusory shimmers. Some night terrors we’re desperate to forget. With this dream, I am merely grateful for whatever zaniness prodded such mirth. “Laughter is carbonated holiness,” says Anne Lamott. I may agree with Woody Allen even more: “I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”

Perhaps this is why Jesus told so many odd stories with offbeat turns and witty puns – and with so many curmudgeonly, half-witted characters. Perhaps Jesus just wanted us to break a smile or, if he could manage it, get us to belch a straight up guffaw. God, it seems, wants us to laugh. And if he must tickle us in the night to make it happen, so be it.

Hear Your Laughter

My wife the poet put beauty to paper with her recent verse. This past weekend, I asked her to recite it for me, twice. I read the piece to a few friends last night, and one friend, Raul, said, "That comes from the heart of an empowered woman." Indeed.

Amid the many lines begging to be savored, she speaks of the invitation to "hear the sound of your own laughter." To listen for someone else's laughter is to delight in them, to take pleasure in their joy and their happiness. I have a friend named Tom whose deep belly guffaw is unmistakable, and it is one of the many things I love about him. When I haven't heard Tom's raucous joy in a while, I miss it.

However, to listen for my own laughter is to take delight in my joy and happiness, to know that anyone who doesn't revel in her own joy can't truly revel in another's.  Watching for my own laughter is to refuse sour spirituality and the false religion of self-flagellation and to believe that God is kind and generous, leaning forward, ready to grin and join the fun — God eager to hear me the way I'm eager to hear Tom.