Friday, May 11, 2012


Humor plays an important role in helping us cope with life.

That does not mean that we all have to perform stand up comedy, amusing our friends with clever patter. But humor is indispensable for dealing with many of the unpleasant episodes we are likely to confront including divorce, financial set-backs and caring for elderly parents. It is humor that allows us to face such situations head on and maintain a healthy balance. If people can't find humor in their everyday lives, they are to be pitied.

Two personal instances come to mind regarding humor -- or the lack thereof -- and oddly enough both occurred while I worked with lawyers.

The first occurred many years ago at a small firm where people worked extremely hard and sincerely enjoyed being around each other. The firm's personnel was an excellent mix of dedicated, intelligent, pleasant people -- except for the managing partner who was a rather ill-tempered and insecure individual. He was the fly in the ointment.

Employees would arrive each morning, retrieve a cup of coffee and return to their offices to begin the day. Sometimes co-workers would greet each other and chat in the coffee room. The managing partner issued an edict that he disapproved of such friendliness and forbade talking among co-workers. Hearing this announcement, we assumed it was some type of joke, a prank to make us chuckle. But soon it became clear that we were no longer allowed to be friendly with each other. The result was extensive "underground" humor about the matter. And we soon began mingling at local eateries over lunch to laugh about the situation, often at the expense of the very man who had prohibited our friendly chit-chat.

The second experience was at a large law firm in a prominent east coast city. I was newly transplanted from the west, still sporting a smile and a tan. I had several years of experience under my belt and was comfortable in my new surroundings. While not brash in any way, I was friendly to others, often greeting them in the hall with "Good morning." One day it was brought to my attention that people had "noticed" that I smiled too much and suggested that I "tone it down" a bit. I obviously had stepped through the looking glass.

I cherish my sense of humor, although it is sometimes hard to find someone who shares my interest. I find this rather pitiful and hope the humor pendulum will eventually swing the other way.

In the meantime, I will share some of my favorite sayings about humor:

A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It's jolted by every pebble on the road. (Henry Ward Beecher)

A sense of humor is the ability to understand a joke - and that the joke is oneself. (Clifton Fadiman)

Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it. (E.B. White)

Humor is a serious thing. I like to think of it as one of our greatest earliest natural resources, which must be preserved at all cost. (James Thurber)

Humor is just another defense against the universe. (Mel Brooks)

If you could choose one characteristic that would get you through life, choose a sense of humor. (Jennifer Jones)

Next time you find the humor in a situation or event, make the most of it. Laugh to yourself and share that experience with at least one other person. Just don't laugh too loudly!

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