Laughter, Mirror of the Soul

The world speaks one language called laughter. It is the shortest distance between people. It is the place where people of every continent, race, religion, and culture meet. Mark Twain got it perfectly when he said: “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.” It brings people together. It is the one irresistible phenomenon that connects and opens the most distressed of hearts. Laughter is a powerful medicine. No one can do without this medicine for too long. A perfect dose of it creates a healthy and well-balanced person. While God remains the Prime Mover over the universal, laughter is the prime connector wherever there are people. Those who can tactfully handle the “serious” world and the “funny” world simultaneously rule the world. Laughter is the master key; it opens all doors. No heart is too grim; no person is inaccessible.Closeup portrait of a group of business people laughing

Laughter reveals the truth about the human person. Although the manner a person carries herself, speaks, acts, thinks, cries, what he believes, and gets involved in reveals a great deal about that person, laughter is the quickest way to know that person. Through laughter, the innermost secrets of the person’s soul are revealed. It is the mirror of the human soul. It touches the deepest layer of the soul. While a smile only touches the lips, laughter bursts forth from the soul, overflows, and bubbles around. Many trust and judge others by their laughs. Fyodor Dostoyevsky went so far as to say: “If a person laughs well, he’s a good person”. That means if he/she lets the heart expresses itself, the real self comes out. Our true color is a beautiful reality that is fundamental good. Laughter brings it out.

lllA sincere, genuine, effortless laughter is irresistible. Who does not like a person with an easy laugh? Who can be unmoved before the laughter of an innocent child? Who does not throw a smirk when he sees or hears a loud, deep, joyful laugh? It can bail a person out of anything. Ingrid Betancourt, a French journalist who was held in captivity for 6 years by the Columbian guerillas, asserts “I knew of no instruction manual for reaching a higher level of humanity and a greater wisdom, but I felt intuitively that laughter was the beginning of wisdom, as was indispensable for survival”. Apparently laughing was the only antidote to her misery in the jungle. She chose laughter in the midst of darkness and light was found. So laughter can empower us. In this sense comedian Craig Ferguson is right: “You gotta laugh because if you didn’t, you’d cry”. Laugh! It will change your interior disposition and your thoughts. Laughter gives rives to a new you—new world, new perspective, and new horizon. Learn to laugh and do it often. Cultivating a cheerful disposition is the most conducive mean to laughter.

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It is universally accepted and scientifically proven that there are many social and healthful expediencies to laughter. Just being around people who laugh often causes laughter and creates a better atmosphere. It is very contagious. Laughter is attractive. A good sense of humor is part of the top three features women look for in men. Having a good humor should be everyone’s priorities. Everyone knows how people who laugh easily create us by their laughter. As victor Hugo puts it: “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face”. No one enjoys winter. Laughter is beneficial for relationships. Research shows that people who use laughter and smile when discussing a sensitive subject feel better in the immediacy and report higher levels of satisfaction in their relationship. Happier relationship means longer relationship.

If only we could always laugh. Life requires us to be serious. Those who laugh too much are not taken seriously. This is where the ancients’ view of laughter makes sense. From Plato to Aristotle to Kant, laughter is seen as disgraceful. They saw it as an emotion that overrides self-control. The Stoics and Aristotle concur with Plato; they believe that laughter should be permissible, but ordered. In this vein, St. Basil the Great wrote “raucous laughter… is indication of a disordered soul, and a lack of self-mastery”. All other theories are a footnote of Plato’s view of laughter. It is only in the last century has laughter accorded so great a value. So although it is a necessity, it is the sign of a good life, it must be exclaimed virtuously.

mI hope this did not start a negative view of laughter in your mind. I only wanted to present both sides. As you know, nothing good exists without a good rule. Self-control is the rule by while laughter is measured. A cheerful and joyful heart is a peak into the eternal chamber of God. God has a good sense of humor as we often say. It is believed that if we could grasp the universe as it truly is, we would have to laugh because it would be interesting seeing the divine wisdom behind it all. That’s why holy people who get a privileged glimpse into God’s mirror always have a good sense of human. They see purely and it is humorous.

In conclusion, while laughter is beneficial to the soul and a sign of happiness, it needs to be done with control and under the right circumstances. So when Dostoyevsky says that laughter reveals the man, he is right after all. It tells you what moves that person. So do laugh, but do it appropriately.

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The Friendship That Lasts

There’s nothing more beautiful in this life than a beautiful friendship. For Ben Sirach the sage, “a true friend is a sturdy shelter; he who has found one finds a treasure”. A true friend is beyond price; no amount can balance his worth. A loyal friend is like a medicine that keeps you in good health. Only those who fear the Lord can find such a friend (Sir. 6:114-7). Thomas Aquinas agrees. He says “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship” (Summa Theologica, Supplement Question 73, Article 1). Aristotle noted in the Nicomachean Ethics book VIII that a friendship based on virtue is the most glorious thing we can achieve on earth. Some go through life without ever finding one; these are grumpy and frustrated. Others do find one, but fail to recognize his value; these have experienced some good days. Still others find one, but only recognize his value after he loses that friendship. These kinds are in search of that true friendship. And the luckiest of them all do find a true friend and ipso facto recognize that gift and cherish it like the greatest pearl. That one is blessed indeed.

friendWho is a true friend? It is someone who is there, physically or in spirit, in moments of anguish, trials, adversity, joy and festive. It is someone who is not afraid to challenge you to become the most virtuous, disciplined, and the best you can be in life. A true friend is always honest and trustworthy. A true friend knows his friends. A true friend lets himself be known.If you want a true friend, become one yourself.

So it is really difficult to find a true friend, and it takes time to come to maturity. According to Cicero, “nothing in the world is harder to find than an excellent friend” (on friendship #21). Only the test of time allows us to know whether or not we have found one. Plutarch, the first century Roman philosopher, argues that a true friend stays true to the truth; a true friend is not a yes-man; he approves only what is good in his friend, and would even go so far as to hurt him for the good. Plutarch suggests that we test friendship by pretending to change back and forth to see whether he will follow indiscriminately. Not a bad idea!

For Cicero, goodness is what makes friendship work. Friendship can only exist between good people. By good, he means those whose actions and lives are unquestionable; those who are free from greed, lust, and violence; those who have the courage of their convictions (Essay on friendship #5). In this view, friendship is defined as a complete accord on all subjects human and divine, joined with mutual goodwill and affection. The latter is crucial for friendship. Without it, there may be a relationship, but not friendship. The former is what binds the friendship together. They help each other discover what is most important in life and they encourage each other to live it out. Aristotle views friendship as a necessity, but something rare to find. That view finds echo in Aristotle’s Nicomacheans ethics, he asserts that a friendship grounded on goodness has a lasting quality to it.

fraThe saints are the best of friends. Whereas you and I can be unbearable at times, the saints are always pleasant company. They don’t show off; they don’t blame; they show no petty humor; they don’t lecture us even when they should. They challenge, inspire, and encourage us by simply living their own lives to the fullest. By the examples of their lives, we are inspired to live the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives extraordinarily. Think of Pier Giorgio Frassati. He bore witness to his faith among his friends in the most exemplary ways. He did not force them into his way, but his beautiful life inspires them to adopt his way. His dedication to the poor made him outstanding among us all. How many of his friends did he influence to live a more humble, joyful, helpful, and meaningful life by his dedication? Goodness is contagious. Even a blind man knows when he is in the presence of a bright light.

Virtue precedes friendship. It is the standard by which we measure friendship. How can life be worth living without friends? There is nothing more delightful than to have a trusted friend to whom you can say everything with the same absolute confidence as to yourself. Without a friend to share one’s joy, prosperity is devalued by half. Misfortunes would be unbearable without a friend to feel them on one’s side (on friendship #6). The attitude of job’s three friends corroborates this view. When they heard of his troubles, they went and empathize with him and comfort him. They could hardly recognize him; they weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. They sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights without saying a word (Job 2:11-13). Friends such as these, everyone needs one. So true friendship enhances even the most unbearable misfortunes of life.job

Cicero, the greatest of the Roman orators, asserts that friendship embraces innumerable advantages. It is more expedient and universal than wealth, power, office, and honor. Where true friendship exists, it enhances prosperity, and relieves adversity of its burden by half (on friendship #6). A true friend is the image of a second self. Where one’s friend is one is; if his friend is rich, he is not poor; though he is weak, his friend’s strength is his; and in his friend’s life he enjoys a second life even after his own is finished. The Romans went so far as to say that whatever in nature and the universe was unchangeable was so in virtue of the binding force of friendship (friendship #7). There’s a lot to chew on here.

Choose your friends wisely. As the proverb goes, “you end up resembling whoever you spend most of your time with”. If you had a choice between St. Clare, St Joseph, and St. Francis and Jay-Z, Taylor Swift, and Bruno Mars, who would you choose? Is it not better to spend time with dead people who bring us to life and with live people who bring us to death? If you could choose between virtues and vices, spiritual growth and material growth, what would you choose? You have that choice. Choose wisely.

Befriend the saints and you will be the best of friend to your friends. Nothing is more precious than a spiritual friend because it does not seek its own advantage but the well-being of the other. That’s the selfless and unconditional love that’s born out of true friendship.

Did You Smile Today?

A smile is worth a million dollars. Laughter is worth 10 millions. A genuine smile can make someone’s day; it opens up new world, new windows of opportunity, and as Victor Hugo said: “Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face”. A smile is something powerful even when it is not seen. You have seen children laughing, before such a wonder, who can remain unmoved? Mark Twain was right when he said that nothing can stand against the assault of laughter.boy child

Dale Carnegie reports that companies in the sixties prefer to hire a smiley secretary with less competence than a skillful one who rarely smiles. True smile is captivating; it makes you stop for a moment to think what life is all about. We can be so busy moving from one thing to another, we never take a moment to smile. So as you go about your business today, stop in front of the mirror and smile. You look so much better when you smile. Before you start the meeting today, ask the employees or you boss to smile for 10 seconds. They might think that you just being bizarre at first, but it will completely change the atmosphere in the room. Smile as you are answering your phone today, smile with the clerk at the store today, smile; it will change how you communicate. Try it and let me know. It works.

You have every reason to laugh, but you prefer to focus on the wrong end of the spectrum. If people who are caught up in the war going on right can smile, if those people exposed to that disease can smile, if that little girl who never have a chance to walk can smile, so can you. It is not bad; you may not want to smile, you may feel that you have no reason to smile or laugh, you may think the joke is not really funny, but why should you not smile, just smile. Force yourself to smile. Act as if you were already happy, and you will slowly become happier. Action seems to follow feeling. Smile changes your thinking. Burst out laughing when you find the time. Create the occasion. Start humming a song out loud in the car, at lunch, while walking, while taking a tower. If you sound awesome, laugh at yourself. It will completely change you. That will change the way you react to people and things. Do you want to look like a terrible grouch, grumpy old person who never sees a good day, or do you want to be a happy, rich, friendly guy who is happy and make others happy? Your choice! You want to be happy, who doesn’t? Know that it does not depend on outward conditions; it depends on your inner disposition.

Closeup portrait of a group of business people laughingDo you wonder why you don’t too many friends? Well, how often do you smile when you’re greeting people? Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Have you ever traveled abroad? Everyone laughs the same way; without seeing someone’s face, you cannot differ between an Asian, an American, an African, a European, or a Latino. They all sound the same. Smile makes us one; it connect us; a mile allows people to see themselves in you. Don’t be afraid to smile. You can be greeting people with a curled lip. Smile. Have an easy smile. Start smiling very often and people around you will catch up; it is very contagious. Be generous with yourself. Smile. Laugh. It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and nature’s best antidote for trouble.

NB: don’t go around laughing at people’s misery, or unfortunate occurrences. They will kill you. Give them a helping hand instead. All the examples given here are created by you; they come from within. Plato, Aristotle, the Bible are very critical of laughter directed at putting someone down. We all hate being humiliated. However, they urged a laughter that rejoices in the good that comes to other people. So it is the philosophy behind laughter they hated, not laughter itself. “When the Lord delivers Zion from bondage… our mouth was filled with laughter, and on our lips there were songs…. The Lord has done great things for them’(Psalm 126:1-2).

The Ultimate Purpose of Marriage

We are living at a period in history where the sense of sacrifice is at its lowest.  Dead is the time when young men would go to the army out of a sense of love of country, justice, and peace. Forgotten is the time when God was the background of people’s acts. Now is the time of Descartes who conceived the person without a body, J. Celebrated is T. Hobbes who aimed at making science more useful to human, and Clifford who claimed that it is wrong always and everywhere to believe without evidence. We are harvesting the fruit of the Enlightenment  that rejects faith for reason;  we are living in the post-modern time, as a result, where reason is trampled underfoot. So, instinct without reason and the light of faith is now in session. This mindset invades the family, governments, every aspect of society, and the few that resist it are under fire.

These erroneous and disordered views have become the way people conceive life itself. They assume that it should always be without trials or difficulties. Marriage, which should be a lifetime commitment where a man and a woman swear to love each other in rainy as in sunny days, is baffled in the midst of this whirlwind.

My goal is to discuss the true purpose of marriage. Though marriage’s prima faciae achievement is union and procreation, I believe its deepest accomplishment lies in saving one’s partner’s soul. To save sometimes requires sacrifices. To save means the total gift of oneself to the point of dying if necessary. To save is demanding. Marriage is a beautiful commitment in which we promise that our will and desires will no longer be our own, but shared with someone else. However, it does not always go this way. Sometimes, one marries to only soon discover that the relationship sucks, or it becomes unlivable. After the honeymoon’s ecstasy is over in a few weeks or months, one can realize that it becomes dull. There is no emotional thrill in seeing the other person anymore. If anyone experiences this, he must know that he is not alone. Even saints undergo dryness at one point in their lives. Though man and woman complement each other, there will still be feeling of emptiness. That’s normal. As St Augustine said, “Lord you have made us for yourself; our heart is restless until it rests in thee” (Confessions I). The psalmist hit the same note when he proclaimed, “in God alone is my soul at rest” (Ps 62). The truth about ourselves is that we are made for infinity. Only when we work toward heaven are we truly happy and satiated. No finite things, no amount of human love can ever satisfy our yearning. No human being can fill our hunger. Know then that when, not if, faced with trials, it is God’s way to make us search for Him. Our loneliness, our encounter with a brick wall in marriage is to save our soul and/or our partner’s soul.

So when love becomes impossible, when the relationship seems to be heading toward divorce, then we need to offer it up as a sacrifice. Your sacrifice will allow you to save your partner’s soul, and your soul of course. Is there something greater than to save someone’s soul? Does Our Lord not say: there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for our friends? When marriage becomes unlivable, intensify your love of God and tell me what happens next. The greater our love for God, the greater is our capacity to love others. When our partner becomes an invalid, it is the time to increase our love of the cross. Penance, Eucharistic adoration, and scripture readings must be augmented.

It is often the case that after a young man or a woman attains the zenith of their prime and enjoy life to its fullest extent, he/she decides that it is time to get married. Those people usually are not married due to falling in love most of the time. They do so out of necessity. They simply seek a person capable of helping them to pay their rent or mortgage. They see marriage in this lens as something to ‘use’. It is those kinds of people that have recourse to divorce first when the relationship does not work out as planned. I must say it is always a bad idea to marry because one sees the other as something to be use. Marriage should happen only within the context of love. Only the bond of love, which is more stern than death, can unite two different beings. Love is not something ready-made. It requires works. It is a standard to which people must live up. They must liberate themselves from the utilitarian idea, using a person for one’s own interest, and become faithful to the principle than a human being is a phenomenon that must be treated always as an end rather than a mean.