Is your joker a joker?
Here I am into TV commercials again. Who doesn’t know the line, “Is your tracker a tracker?” My question: “Is your joker a joker?” A humourist, a genuinely fun person, or is he or she more a disillusioned cynic or sad clown.
The present time for me is full of memories as I celebrate different anniversaries, so naturally we have been thinking and sharing about the days of our lives.
Sitting at Mass on June 22, the anniversary of the death of my husband Chris, I asked myself what is missing, gone, lacking in my life. I concluded it was a sense of depth, or of breadth, a sense of real engagement with life.
It was the feast of Ss John Fisher and Thomas More. The celebrant spoke of Thomas More, the politician, who after a period of imprisonment was executed because he would not abandon his convictions about King Henry VIII and his divorce. But, added the celebrant, throughout his incarceration he retained his sense of humour. Great man! And what about his family? Could they see humour in the situation?
Humour, fun and joking are a whole range of behaviours. Poking fun at things and people is an age-old activity common in families. As they grow up children will laugh at their younger or older siblings, and of course all ages laugh at one another too. Genuine fun and laughter are the greatest of gifts in a family and should be encouraged. But laughing at one another, at one who is more vulnerable than another for some reason, a habit, an emotional state, age and experience, can also be painful and destructive; something we have become far more aware of in recent times.
Bullying at school is a very big issue, frowned upon but still happening. Bullying in the family through belittling or making fun of another can also be highly destructive and disrespectful.
You also get the family joker, the life and soul of every party, a genuinely happy person, or maybe one who is crying bitter tears inside while acting the clown. Older members can and do become cynical, and, at times too, comical. Again a “good” laugh together, with one another rather than at one another, is healthy—but the cynicism of the older members can destroy the confidence of younger parents, who really need support in their increasingly complex task of bringing up children.
The young ones may hide their problems and not ask for advice or help because of the attitude of the their elders.
A particular family focus this month of July is “love builds a family across generations”. Most families have wonderful examples and experiences of young children and their elderly grandparents or even great-grandparents seemingly having a particular affinity. They do tolerate and even accept and respect one another’s ways and limitations. Some of the rest of us, possibly because of the hectic pace of our lives, become impatient with the young and the old.
A psychological quality that young children need in order to grow into healthy maturity is trust. The quality of the old is to be able to look back on a life well lived, with acceptance and hope and not despair. So I found the following saying of Arland Ussher which I came across deeply thought-provoking: “Humour is the sense of the absurd which is despair refusing to take itself seriously.”
Treating old and young with the respect they deserve doesn’t have to make us pious plaster saints but real flesh and blood people who can and should exhibit a sense of humour, have fun and laugh together.
After all it is still true that “laughter is the best medicine,” but God forbid that the joke is just a coverup for the tears or should leave a bitter aftertaste in one’s heart.