“Anyone without a sense of humor is at the mercy of everyone else” (William Rotsler).

ON THIS DAY EVERY YEAR, PRACTICAL JOKES ARE TRADITIONALLY ACCEPTED, AND EVEN ENCOURAGED. Today of all days, “anyone without a sense of humor is at the mercy of everyone else.”

Some of us need more than one such day a year. We tend to take ourselves too seriously, like Queen Victoria of England, who would cut off anyone guilty of being humorous in her presence with the stiff reply, “The Queen is not amused.” Thus the Victorian Age, for which she is known, is remembered for some good things, but amusement is not one of them. The Queen, apparently, was not a comedienne.

Not many of us would like to find that we have a reputation for being a “stuffed shirt.” We like people who have the ability to be amused, and we’d prefer to be thought of that way ourselves. Too often, however, we let the weighty issues of life drag us down into a place where there is no amusement. So we need a day once in a while, like today, when a bit of humor is forced upon us. “Humor,” as Jan McKeithen said, “is a hole that lets the sawdust out of a stuffed shirt.”

The ability to be amused and to amuse others are abilities worth cultivating, if they’re not a part of our character right now. It may seem contradictory to talk about “working on” our amusement, but that may, in fact, be what we need to do. We may need to make some conscious decisions to loosen up and learn how to be both the amuser and the amusee. Doing so pays great dividends. The breaking-in period may be uncomfortable, as with a new pair of shoes, but eventually the capacity for genuine, healthy amusement will be worth acquiring.

Amusement is a part of what makes for rich relationships with other human beings. If we want our relationships to be multi-layered and many-dimensioned, we need to aspire to having more than one kind of influence. We need, certainly, to work on being able to teach, inspire, and encourage. But, personally, I also want to be able to amuse. And those whom I count as my dearest friends are those whom I know I can amuse now and then. How about you?

“We cherish our friends not for their ability to amuse us, but for our ability to amuse them” (Evelyn Waugh).

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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