Laughter is Good Medicine

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Posted by Terry S. ( on June 14, 2000 at 13:59:06:



"She who laughs, lasts." At least that was Theresa of Avila's
philosophy. Theresa, a Spanish nun who founded the reformed order
of the Carmelites in 1562 used to look for novices who knew how
to laugh, eat and sleep. She believed that if they ate heartily
they were healthy, if they slept well they were more than likely
free of serious sin, and if they laughed, they had the necessary
disposition to survive a difficult life.

Abraham Lincoln must have also known that laughter is good
medicine. In writing about Lincoln's Civil War years, author
Richard Hanser says that on September 22, 1862, the War Cabinet
was summoned to the White House for a special session. Lincoln
was reading a book as everyone came in. Secretary of War Stanton
later said this of the meeting: "Finally the president turned to
us and said, 'Gentlemen, did you ever read anything of Artimus
Ward? Let me read a chapter that is very funny.'"

The president then read aloud a skit called "Highhanded Outrage
at Utica." Stanton was furious, but Lincoln read on and, at the
end, he laughed heartily. "Gentlemen," he asked, "why do you not
laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me day and night, if
I did not laugh, I should die. And you need this medicine as much
as I do." It was at this same session that the president pulled a
paper from his tall hat and read aloud the now immortalized
Emancipation Proclamation.

He's right -- we may likely die without frequent and sustained
doses of laughter. After all, they who laugh, last.

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