I have a parishioner who has been diagnosed with a grave illness. It will most likely require some dreadful upcoming treatment. In our conversations I have found her practical and good humored. I have such admiration for the person who holds on to the ability to laugh in the face of adversity. I suspect that life has a way of wearing away at the ability to find mirth in the face of disappointment and heartbreak. Often I meet people whose circumstances have blasted every last belly laugh into smithereens. These are usually the same individuals who upon overhearing hilarity tend to ask in a querulous tone of voice, “what’s so funny?”
This is not intended to be a reflection on humor so much as a glimpse into courage. I would suggest one definition of this word being the ability to face adversity without self-pity. The fact is that everyone, yes everyone, has some kind of challenge, or misfortune or dilemma they are attempting to overcome. We are all trying to scale the wall of the past, eradicate a cancer cell or pay off a crippling debt. Even the goon at the next restaurant table with the annoyingly braying laugh (that man is probably me by the way) is probably attempting to hold his fraying marriage together. Just because we are laughing or telling a funny story does not mean we don’t experience suffering – it usually means we are hoping to transcend it.
Ernest Hemmingway wrote, “courage is grace under pressure.” For me that grace is exhibited when in the face of crisis we still find the ability to say “good morning” and “thank you.” When we continue to ask the polite question and are willing to patiently listen to a long and pointless story. Whining and self-absorption can be diverting but after awhile they leave a sour taste in one’s mouth. I hope that nothing is so beastly that I cannot appreciate the beauty in the colors of the sky or savor my favorite music or laugh out loud at my own behavior. After all this is my one and only trip—I would like to enjoy the ride.“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Ambrose Redmoon~