I was invited to address a group of folks recently at the National Association for the Blind in Louisville. In trying to find an appropriate topic, I landed upon the idea of telling them how to see humor. As far as I could tell the group to whom I was about to speak were successful business folks who had learned how to overcome their disabilities and as such having a sighted person speak to them about how to see something which we should all have in common struck me as a fairly interesting approach.
Before I begin, let me tell you that my talk was very well received. The audience was laughing the entire time and I’ve received a wonderful endorsement as a public speaker from the event organizer. I tell you this because, as I am about to discuss in more detail, I have a keen awareness that among the readers of this publication there are some folks who are unfortunately, humorless.
In my talk to the Louisville group I told them about how I had taught my sons to see more in the world than might be immediately visible to the naked eye. At a very young age I took them with me to the woods and did my best to train them to sit very quietly and motionless, to blend in to the surroundings so that the creatures of the forest would feel comfortable going about their daily activities unthreatened.
Over time, after much wiggling, and shushing, I was finally able to arrive at the proper combination of stillness and quiet for them to see what I had been trying to describe. The frightened chipmunk that had run and hid as he heard our footsteps coming ventured out from under the rock and began filling his fat little cheeks only a few feet from our boots. Squirrels grabbed hickory nuts and chewed away loudly overhead raining down hulls into the leaves. Birds perched on branches near our face and cocked their heads trying to figure out what we were. Deer on full alert walked to within yards of us and nibbled on leaves like a scene from a Bambi cartoon.
Over time I taught them how to sort out the natural camouflage of rabbit fur among the foliage by looking for the big round black eye, how to pick up the slow movement of a box turtle beneath the leaves, how to appreciate the altitude at which migrating geese flew overhead silently and missed by most of the world below. I spent a lot of time teaching them to see things missed by most people.
In my talk I opened with this story and then told the audience that humor can escape us too unless we are willing to try to find it. And the reason we need to try to find it, I told them, was because it adds a dimension of joy and happiness to our lives that helps us transcend our own problems, see the good things in the world and to find something in common with others and to share it.
As I then began to point out the number of things in everyday life that some people miss because they aren’t looking for it their nervous and polite laughter began. A few minutes more into my talk and the audience was continuously smiling, even in between the stories. Their reactions switched from polite laughter to guffaws and knee slapping. Their heads thrust backwards from time to time as they crowed with delight. Though none of them could see each other, what I could see was an audience which was all connected now, not by their common disability, but by a common sense of joy.
I realize that my humor that day was carefully crafted for the specific audience I was addressing and so I not only had a topic to which I felt they might relate, but I was able to build a bit of a relationship first by sharing with them my world view, how I had taught my sons to see things others cannot see and to give them a reference point for the rest of what I was about to say.
But here, in these columns, I lack the advantage of knowing who might be reading what I write. I don’t know what background you come from and for the most part forget that most of you don’t know me. That has created a bit of difficult situation from time to time in my life. I forget that there are people out there who suffer from the terrible handicap of being humorless.
You see, I look for humor in everything. Unless I am having a very serious discussion, and I usually make that intention very clear, 80 percent of the time I am trying to be funny. I don’t always hit the target, or hit it out of the park, but the way I see it, if I’m not trying to find humor in something and show it to you, I might miss some of the joy of life or miss the chance to share it.
I recently was confronted by someone who once read something I had written with every intention of it being funny. In fact, so many people told me that they had read what I had written and found it hilarious that I was a little surprised to learn that a few people saw no humor in it at all. In fact, some people took offense at my attempt at humor. In my usual reaction to such a discovery I decided to consider what might have triggered such a response and here is what I have concluded.
First, because those folks don’t know me very well they wouldn’t have known that I never try to hurt anybody’s feelings or that I am always trying to crack a joke.
Second, those folks might have never had someone take as much time with them as I took with my sons to show them how to look for the good in everything, to see things others don’t see and to experience the joy of finding humor in everyday experiences.
And third, I guess there are some people who perhaps recognize their own disability in the humor department and instead of being able to laugh, are bitter about it, and in the final analysis, become humorless.
In any of those three cases above I have a solution. I offer it here every time I write an article. I try to show you the world as I see it through my eyes, the joy of things others might miss and how to see humor even when it is hidden.
It does require some effort on your part to “get that” however. Like my sons who had to sit quietly and observe, you would have to read my entire body of work on a regular basis to finally see it yourself. But I would suggest that it is a worthwhile investment of your time.
After all, I was able to show a room populated with blind people how to see things the way I do, so I encourage you to stick with me. This is the place where I hold out hope for the humorless.
Marcus Carey is a Northern Kentucky lawyer with 32 years experience. He is also a farmer, talk radio host and public speaker who loves history and politics. He is a prolific and accomplished writer whose blog, BluegrassBulletin.com, is “dedicated to honest and respectful comment on the political and cultural issues of our time.” He writes a regular commentary for KyForward.