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Point of View: You’ve Got to Laugh

Wed, 06/30/2021 - 19:20

On Father’s Day my daughter said I was a happy person, and that that fact was probably the greatest gift I could have bestowed upon my children.

I told her I was happy to hear that, if, indeed, it was true, and apologized, of course, for falling short when it came to achieving a steady state of ecstasy.

I do remember once saying I wished that she and her brother would always be “engaged in life.” The odds of your being happy as a consequence of being engaged are, I think, good.

“Dr. Happiness,” Edward Diener, whose obituary I read in The Times this morning, was a measurer of happiness, “sustainable happiness,” which he said was about “much, much more than having fun.”

In fact, I would say that to be happy in an insouciant sense would tend to be disengaging, pretty much the opposite of happiness as I think Dr. Diener defined it. To be engaged — to be concerned with the state of one’s own soul and to be com passionate when it comes to others — is still, I think, the main thing.

Why is the Dalai Lama in the photograph my son-in-law’s mother has up on their wall laughing? You do wonder because of all the suffering that attends life, suffering of which, I’m sure, he’s all too well aware.

My answer is that his is a laughter of engagement born of resilience, he is laughing with us, not at us, not in some superior way; his is a laughter that connects — he does not take himself too seriously, and so he can connect, he can participate in suffering and in joy, he can achieve that wonderful balance.

I’m not there, despite Emily’s kind words, though I’ve lived long enough to know that there’s nothing to be done but to laugh. She says her father-in-law laughs too. In fact, I would say laughter at a certain age is imperative.

As the old Italian philosopher once said to my wife’s Aunt Peggy, “Whatchagonnado?


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