“It was not the privileged and the fortunate who took in the Jews in France. It was the marginal and damaged, which should remind us that there are real limits to what evil and misfortune can accomplish. If you take away the gift of reading, you create the gift of listening. If you bomb a city, you leave behind death and destruction. But you create a community of remote misses. If you take away a mother or a father, you cause suffering and despair. But one time in ten, out of that despair rises as indomitable force. You see the giant and the shepherd in the Valley of Elah and your eye is drawn to the man with sword and shield and the glittering armor. But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we ever imagine.”
― Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
“I can’t listen to the news anymore.” “I have never felt this despairing before.” “I am afraid.” “I feel as if my world is out of control.”
All of these are comments shared with me in recent weeks. As we watch threats being made by the new presidential administration to the human, civil and environmental rights which we have come to take as a given, many people have felt their world turn upside down. Others have pointed out that the sense of being held victim to a random hatred or an unfair world is not new to them—some aspect of their identity as a bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender or queer person or as a person or color or a person without housing or a person of limited economic means has given them this unmoored sense before.
In this time, we can look to the communities which already have experience, as unfortunate as it may be, with the randomness of living in a world where your power is limited by the hatefulness of others, for guidance on how to maintain one’s equilibrium for the longer run. And one of those lessons is that we must notice beauty, we must engage in joyful acts and we must allow ourselves to laugh.
Let There Be Laughter is a book by National Public radio host Michael Krasny and it looks at the role of humor in Jewish communities. He says that the humor comes out of adversity and yet it is the leavening, like yeast to the flour, which makes life consumable. In many a circle of people of color, I have laughed until tears ran down my face. And, in this week as I write this, as we are noting the 75th anniversary of the signing of the executive order which began the internment of Japanese-American citizens, I am remembering family gatherings on that side of my family and how we would laugh until we had to leave the room to catch our breath.
Don’t be afraid to laugh, my friends. Be afraid not to. Send pictures of beautiful and lovely things to one another. Remember the power of connection and love. Joy is not a betrayal of these difficult and trying times, it is the yeasty and feisty form of resistance which will get us through this time. When you feel as if it is too much, then take a break and that will allow you to pay attention when it is most needed.
In the spirit of love and unity, Leslie
Rev. Leslie Takahashi