Dr Tom Kerns
North Seattle Community College


On Laughter:

Is it a good thing or not ?

Don't do it

"Having mentioned laughing, I must particularly warn you against it.... Frequent and loud laughter is the characteristic of folly and ill manners; it is the manner in which the mob express their silly joy at silly things; and they call it being merry. In my mind, there is nothing so illiberal, and so ill-bred, as audible laughter. True wit, or sense, never yet made anybody laugh; they are above it, they please the mind, and give a cheerfulness to the countenance. But it is low buffoonery, or silly accidents, that always excite laughter; and that is what people of sense and breeding should show themselves above.... I am neither of a melancholy nor a cynical disposition, and am as willing and apt to be pleased as anybody; but I am sure that since I had full use of my reason, nobody has ever heard me laugh."

- from a letter by Lord Chesterfield to his son

Do it

"To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one's self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sing with exultation; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived -- this is to have succeeded."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)