There’s a girl I see at work, foreign, I think Polish, but I’ve never worked directly with her, only seen or heard her from some distance. She’s young, neither ugly nor especially pretty, and dresses in the fashionably outlandish way many of her peers do – multicoloured leggings, animal-ear bobble hats, etc. And every time I see or hear her, the same thought crosses my mind: ‘There’s that stupid girl again.’
Now, bearing in mind that I’ve never spoken with her, or even heard what she’s saying to her colleagues, how have I formed such a fixed opinion of her intellect? Simple. It’s because she laughs so much. Everything from a behind-the-hand titter, or a choking giggle between sentences, to a head-thrown-back shrieking with laughter, pretty much all the time. And that’s not normal, right? Not at work, certainly. How can anyone react that way in spite of all the stress around them, the job being done badly, running late, everyone else grumpy and tired, unless they simply don’t care? And it winds me up because she should care, she should share responsibility, she should react like a normal grown-up to the pressures of the job. Shouldn’t she?
The constant hilarity comes across as sheer foolishness – nothing is taken seriously, so she clearly doesn’t think, she doesn’t consider, she doesn’t worry, she doesn’t care.
But it occurred to me, quite recently, that maybe I’m looking at this backwards. I think I’m the clever one, seeing the big picture, worrying about consequences, fretting about things I have no control over. But of the two of us, me plodding, grumping and worrying, and her howling with laughter several times an hour, which one is approaching life the right way? Which one of us has the best solution for getting through the daily grind? It occurs to me that being care-free should be something to aim for, not deride.
At what point in human history was it decided that laughter equals foolishness? It’s certainly not a new idea – at least as far back as ancient Greek literature fools were portrayed as laughing immoderately whereas the thinkers were all serious men. This image has persisted ever since, so we are much more inclined to think of someone with a permanent frown, or even downright miserable, as a thinker of deep thoughts, while phrases such as ‘grinning idiotically’ or ‘laughing like a loon’ spring readily to the tongue.
Our society produces endless catchphrases and maxims like ‘Laughter is the best medicine’, ‘Smile and the whole world smiles with you’, ‘Live more, love more, laugh often’, ‘Don’t worry, be happy’; so clearly on one level we understand that laughter and joy are good and desirable things, and too much seriousness is bad for you. And yet in real life, if we see someone who actually follows those precepts, we wonder what’s wrong with them.
Maybe it’s time for those of us blessed with serious minds and decent intellects to actually step back, let go, and laugh more. So things aren’t perfect? Laugh anyway. If other people think you’re an idiot, why should you care? Try being carefree. Go on, have a giggle. And if you want a real belly-laugh, get a dog.