Make ‘Em Laugh

Life without festival is like a long road without an inn.

                                                                                                                                                         — Democritus

The Ancient Greeks thought of anyone from the city of Abdera: he’s a buffoon.

The Young Rembrandt as Democritus the Laughing Philosopher

That bias lives on even today in the phrase Abderian laughter, which denotes the laughter of a fool—of a schmegeggy who’ll laugh at anything.

The citizens of Abdera owed their reputation to a native son, Democritus, known throughout the Greek Empire as the “Laughing Philosopher.”

Democritus believed the goal of man was cheerfulness—called euthymia in the jottings he left behind—and wrote, “They are the fools who live life without enjoyment of life.”

Contemporaries said this “champion of cheerfulness” made a habit of staying merry by laughing at human foibles.

Smiling is beguiling

Laughter might seem foreign to us right now, as we steer through “these uncharted times” (a pet phrase of the peppy voiceover at my Safeway).

But laughter has always helped folks in distress, as just one example reminds us: an inmate of the “Hanoi Hilton”—itself a wry nickname for the horrific prison camp—wrote on the wall in the POWs’ shower stall, “Smile, You’re on Candid Camera.”

Success, wealth, independence and leisure sound good, until you count their cost in fear—fear of their loss.

But cheerfulness leads to fear’s absence—to athambria, as the Laughing Philosopher called it.

You can’t be fearful when you’re cheerful.