“He’d spent a lifetime turning to humor in moments of difficulty. It often made the unthinkable endurable.”
– from Okami: A Flame in the Mist Short Story, by Renée Ahdieh
Laughter is medicine for the soul, as they say. It can also be a much-needed crutch, or a shield, or even a sword. For Okami, it’s always been all of the above.
It doesn’t spoil too much of the story to say that Okami’s life has been dominated by pain and loss. His grandparents died, his mother vanished at sea, presumed dead, and his father, a man of honor and a lord who genuinely cared for those under his care, was betrayed, framed for a crime he did not commit, and subsequently executed. Bereft of family, and even a surrogate family (which goes into spoilers), as well as his lands, title, and all his worldly possessions, Okami had to learn from a very young age how to endure. One can argue that he did not endure with any particular grace, but he endured nonetheless. He survived. Even more, he kept his ability to care for others, an ability that eventually redeemed him from his flaws. This, he did, by laughing.
When he was in pain, he found something to laugh at. When someone behaved foolishly, he laughed, his wit providing both censure and instruction to those willing to learn. When he was imprisoned and beaten, he laughed at his tormentors, in their weakness, and to keep them from learning anything of value from him. When those dear to him came to help him, he laughed with them in good humor, and it helped him stand upright again. His spirit was severely injured, but it was never quite broken, because he could still laugh.
There’s something very powerful and very true in that, I think, about just how vital, and helpful, laughter is to us as human beings.
It’s a kernel of hope, a little bit of light in the darkness of the world, and it can make all the difference in the world. It can help us stand up after we’ve been beaten down. The surprise of a single smile gracing our own lips without warning, of a laugh, a chuckle, a chortle, it can keep us breathing and alive when all we want is to… stop. It’s a single proof that there is still something good in the world, in life, and in us. Sometimes, that’s all we need.
It’s not a new idea, I know. It’s been commented on by Stan Lee, Robin Williams, Roger Rabbit, and Guido in Life is Beautiful, among others. But it’s a good idea, worth remembering, and so worthy of repetition.
Laughter has a power all its own. A power to heal, nurture, uplift, strengthen, and save us. Against the power of laughter, all the howling, anguished misery and horror of the world is ultimately powerless.
Not to say it’s easy, of course. I will never say it’s easy. 😉
But it is possible to endure even unthinkable things so long as we have a little light, like laughter, in our souls.