Few things are as beautiful as a laughing baby. Parents work tirelessly to bring a smile to their infant’s face. When the first laugh occurs, it’s no less a miracle! That first smile and subsequent laughter is like magic, causing us to love the little ones even more than we ever thought possible!
Humorist Mark Twain offered some sage comments on laughter, one of which says:
“Laughter which cannot be suppressed is catching. Sooner or later it washes away our defenses, and undermines our dignity, and we join in it − ashamed of our weakness, and embittered against the cause of its exposure, but no matter, we have to join in, there is no help for it.”
Most of us, sometime in our lives, have experienced what he’s talking about. I recall one time before my husband and I were married when we were sitting in a full movie theater just as the dramatic climax played on the screen. Suddenly, we could not suppress our laughter and viewers sitting around us became incensed!
Overall, I’m not as concerned about dignity as Mark Twain seems to be (as reflected by this quote). More than one doctor or psychologist or parent has been heard to repeat this dictum: Laughter is the best medicine. It’s been a long time since I’ve read the comics section of a newspaper, but I recall a one-panel comic that was titled Laughter is the Best Medicine. (Apparently, the cartoon is still around but I haven’t looked in the newspaper to confirm it.)
As I’ve said before in this space, I enjoy playing with words. The sonnet below is an example of my play. Don’t you agree that a word like cachinnationought to be in a poem? This consonant-heavy word shouldn’t be left just to languish in the dictionary!
The trick, of course, for using cachinnation in a poem is to include it in a way that doesn’t seem contrived. (What do you think? Have I managed?) Whatever you think, above all … Laugh On!
For some of us, closing out the year 2013 means saying goodbye. Death is never pleasant; we have treasured moments to remember, but it’s not the same as having your flesh-and-blood loved one with you.
(How thankful I am not to have lost anyone close to me this year!)
Because I’m a people-oriented person though, my attention is usually caught by the newspapers, magazines and television that run retrospective pieces on famous or infamous or otherwise well-known people who’ve left us during any given year. These lists include names of people with whom we may be familiar as well as names of some who are unknown to us.
One list that attracted my attention was a list offered on the World Magazine website. This alphabetical list included six pages of names (and a small bio for most). As one might expect, a few names included on the list were people whose web of influence touched me in some way. I pulled out ten names that meant the most to me.
What girl in the 60s and 70s did not know Annette Funicello? As a youngster, she shone brighter than most of the other Mouseketeers. She sang, danced and won the hearts of viewers everywhere. For me, she was a picture of grace, always smiling, exuding sincerity and warmth, a role model to emulate.
Not everyone will know who Dr. Howard G. Hendricks (Prof) was, but I remember him well. When my Beloved attended Dallas Theological Seminary, Prof was a favorite instructor and along with his wife Jeanne, they generously hosted students and wives in their home, teaching us as we shared delicious meals together.
The next name might seem a bit odd: Tom Laughlin. This actor and screenwriter (many other things as well) brought Billy Jack to the screen when my Beloved and I were young married folks. (One of my school classmates had a bit part in the film, so naturally I wanted to see the movie.) My Beloved and I found the film sort of campy.
Being a gal who grew up in St. Louis, the name Stan Musial was a household name. He started his career in 1941 with the Cardinals. He had a restaurant (Stan & Biggie’s) he operated until after I left the city for college.
One of the pivotal books I read during my early years of marriage and parenting was Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund. I never knew her personally but her book influenced me to train (discipline) my inner person for the purpose of developing true beauty.
Another woman whose influence was strong was author Edith Schaeffer. She wrote many books, but her book Hidden Art encouraged me to make my home an expression of beauty and peacefulness.
My love for music is embedded in my soul. My parents were early mentors, especially my daddy. He loved to hear George Beverly Shea sing the sweet hymn How Great Thou Art, and I pretty much cut my teeth hearing this song as well as others Shea sang (I’d Rather Have Jesus, The Wonder of It All etc.). My daddy often sang solos in church (an occasional duet with me) and though he was mostly self-taught in music, I always thought he sounded a lot like Shea.
When you’re married (as I am) to a lover of sports, the name Pat Summerall will be familiar. Of course his connection to our home state doesn’t hurt, but I just remember sitting with my husband (again, we were young married folks) viewing football and hearing the genial Summerall explain the game to me. I learned a great deal from him.
Margaret Thatcher of course was a role model for many women, particularly those of a conservative persuasion like myself. As first female Prime Minister in England, the Iron Lady inspired me with her tough-minded (but always ladylike) approach to politics and government. Her friendship with President Ronald Reagan increased my admiration for her even more.
Finally, I must mention golfer Ken Venturi. (Again, being married to a lover of sports and most especially a lover of golf, I’ve learned to love the game myself.) Since Venturi’s actual golf career ended in 1961, he is most memorable to me via his distinctive broadcasting voice. Yes, I’ve even learned to watch golf with my Beloved … though I much prefer to play the game instead of watching it on television. Listening to Venturi in the broadcast booth helped his love for the game spill over to me.
There’s another golfer in the list − Miller Barber − and while I recall his name and that he was a golfer, that’s about all. (My Beloved could probably regale me with stories of the man’s career. I can’t.)
So, we say goodbye to these men and women, influencers all. I am grateful for the impact each had on me. Heeding this wisdom from Mark Twain, may we each live fully now, today and each tomorrow God gives us: “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
Considering the books I mentioned in yesterday’s post, there’s ample evidence to support my overall approach to children’s literature … and perhaps by extension, my selections offer a reasonable predictor for my adult reading and writing habits.
Having cut my teeth (so to speak) on fables and fairy tales, my imagination flourished, enjoying this steady diet as much as Edmund found Turkish Delight to his liking. Even from a very early age, I knew − with a precocious confidence − there were not just fairy worlds I could explore but something other-worldly and yet still real beyond the world into which I’d been born. (I’m reminded of Sheldon Vanauken’s comment in A Severe Mercy“… eternity exists and is our home.”)
I also have to chuckle, looking at yesterday’s list. No wonder I love the pithy one-liners (that often elude me) as a way to conclude a piece! Aesop was my early teacher! Even when it’s not the trite moral statement, being able to nail one’s thesis in the final sentence (for me, anyway) is akin to tying a bow on a gift. It signifies Complete! as nothing else can.
Moving toward books read during my late pre-teen and teenage years, what strikes me first of all are the books I diligently avoided. They are many. I shunned almost everything my friends were reading: the Little House books, Black Beauty, every Mary Poppins book,The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland. And I’d have eaten dirt before ever reading a Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden mystery; I was that opposed to them! My contrarian nature was driven to find the gems, and in my view, the ones my friends read were (apparently) too pedestrian, hardly the gems I sought.
I steered clear of Mark Twain for other reasons. Growing up in Missouri, I experienced Twain’s books during many a literature class (“reading,” I think we called it then). Certainly, scenes from Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn were re-enacted for school events, so my familiarity with these works kept me from actually enjoying Twain’s talent and writing style until I became an adult.
When I was thirteen or fourteen, I think my first taste of C. S. Lewis came through reading Till We Have Faces. No, I wasn’t familiar with Cupid and Psyche, so this wasn’t “a myth retold.” It was new to me. (I think I chose the Lewis book in a fit of pique. Some of my classmates were reading Hamilton’s Mythology while my Lit class read other things. Why the difference? Who knows, but I had my first introduction to Lewis.)
Though this initial exposure to Lewis was a positive one, my respect for him centered on one volume. Still, I appreciated him enough to be sorrowful when he died (as I mentioned in another post from 3 years ago). Even in 1963, I acknowledged him as someone consequential, but my appreciation didn’t mature for another decade. (A subsequent reading of Faces in college increased my understanding of this fine work, and built a desire to know more as I read more from him.)
I’ve told how I eschewed certain popular works. I also employed specific methods for choosing what I read. I remember walking all the way to the back at the library to find any shelf where the deserted, neglected books must be (or so it seemed to me). In those days, there were cards slotted into pockets inside the book covers. These cards listed the names of whoever had last borrowed the books. Whenever I found a book with nary a signature on the card, that’s the one I’d check out. Did I find any gems that way? Can’t say I remember any, so probably not. But failure didn’t dissuade me; I was ever hopeful.
Another way I’d choose books: I’d look through a row of books for an author whose name adorned many spines — the more the better! (I guess today I’d be reading Danielle Steele, Nora Roberts, Barbara Cartland.) In those days, though, I discovered Gene Stratton-Porter. Her books stretched almost to a whole row on the shelf, so I knew I’d have a long run getting to know her and her work. (As I understand it, her novels fell out of favor over time because of the racial disparities her characters countenanced.)
Reading the Stratton-Porter books heightened my sense of adventure. Though the books are generally romance fiction, the author’s love for nature and her characters’ fearlessness in the face of villains made the books a departure from the usual young girl fare. Stratton-Porter let her heroines enjoy the adventure and take risks! With every book, I began to imagine horizons beyond the limitations so often portrayed in “normal” and conventional books for girls.
Stratton-Porter inspired me to broaden my view of the world. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share some titles about where my adventures began. Borrowing an idea from Dr. Seuss:
Oh, the places I’ve gone and the people I see. Such fun adventures, especially for me!
… I’ve had it up to here! (See Squidward’s hand? Mine is way higher than his head.) My patience is utterly sapped by the current cultural disposition that demands an unrelenting, dictatorial homogeneity of thought disguised in the garb of all-inclusive diversity! No divergence of opinion, no allowance for ideas that fail to toe an invisible line some unknown autocrat has drawn … for our own good, of course.
Day after day, rappers and celebrities heedlessly employ the term ni**er in their music and discourse, sometimes humorously, other times hatefully … and always with casual disregard. Yet esteemed writers like Mark Twain have been censured and deprived of their historic respectability in the literary canon for daring to have written works that express the everyday conversations of their time!
And speaking of language, I want it back! I hate that a word like niggardly has been tainted by someone’s misguided belief the word is an extension of the previously mentioned epithet.
… I’m angry there are “scholars” today who condemn C. S. Lewis, accusing him of veiled sexism in his portrayal of fictional female characters! How could he possibly have imagined such an idiomatic and ideological shift would so sever his world from ours?!
… I’ve had my fill of people who cry “racist” when legitimate criticism is directed at a US President who happens to be half-black. Okay, some people who hold opinions about our Commander in Chief might just be racist … but maybe they’re anti-white. (Conceding the man is half-black, doesn’t that also mean he’s half-white?)
… I’m done − I say, D-O-N-E-! − with know-nothings who presume to dictate which objects / topics / associations /relationships / clubs / etc. should be subject to micro-analysis for potential charges of racism / sexism / homophobia / heterophobia / jingoism or any other “no-no” based solely on someone’s contrived standard that presupposes their moral high ground, their hyper-sensitive intuition and their discernment. (Their attitude about your thoughts to the contrary are irrelevant and unwelcome, by the way!)
… I am especially exasperated with overindulged, politically-correct busybody trolls on the internet whose self-appointed mission is to act as doorkeepers and arbiters of right and wrong (as defined by them). Anxiously trolling electronic media, they pick fights with any writer who fails to adopt their oh-so-enlightened views of the world.
Yes, I am a knuckle-dragging neanderthal so I’ll never view the world through some troll’s warped lens. Certainly, I agree slavery was evil and continues to be an evil that unfortunately still exists today. But the so-called “systematic victimization and oppression” committed in the past … is past. Let it go! Learn from the past and refuse to slavishly perpetuate this tiresome victim narrative!
I find it tedious when people still insist today that Thomas Jefferson (or any other historic figure from that era) should be denigrated for owning slaves and/or having conjugal relations with slave women. Though in all times and all places, multitudes of powerful people have treated others despicably, the troll’s broad brush of disparagement blackens all figures from that time, not just the evil ones.
Sin is part of the human condition. Hearts are wicked and the base instinct of rule or be ruled will prevail. The powerful have never been shy about wielding the sword to their advantage. (Is it any different today? I don’t think so.)
… I am weary to the bone − yes, yes, yes! − with shameless academics who shirk their responsibility of imparting critical core knowledge to their students, preferring instead to indoctrinate students with a peculiar brand of deconstructive psychobabble that renders said students into useful idiot-hood.
Assuming every element and symbol of American thought is once and for all reduced and stripped of its “hierarchical,” “colonialist,” “patriarchal” (and other objectionable) constructs, what then? Do we gain nirvana or just end up as a mass of individuated ignoramuses? Instead of being propagandized, wouldn’t students be better served by learning how to think clearly and to develop lifelong problem-solving skills?
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’ve described this as a rant and it is. But none of what I’ve said is meant to be malicious or hateful. That’s not who I am. If you consider my rant oozes with “intolerance,” I welcome your views. But be forewarned. “Tolerance” usually receives short shrift in my book. Why shut down the marketplace of ideas in favor of aberrance?
[On the other hand, if a troll reader is determined to deconstruct my rant and delve into my deepest “issues,” I trust I’ve provided sufficient material for the endeavor.]
Am I the only one ready to push back against a prevailing ideology that no longer makes sense? If my observations provoke similar thoughts for you, then this was a rant worth having. Glad I got that off my chest!