A Laugh a Day

by | Jun 8, 1998 | Joy

“She who laughs, lasts.” At least that was Theresa of Avila’s philosophy. Theresa, a Spanish nun who founded the reformed order of the Carmelites in 1562 used to look for novices who knew how to laugh, eat and sleep. She believed that if they ate heartily they were healthy, if they slept well they were more than likely free of serious sin, and if they laughed, they had the necessary disposition to survive a difficult life.

Abraham Lincoln must have also known that laughter is good medicine. In writing about Lincoln’s Civil War years, author Richard Hanser says that on September 22, 1862, the War Cabinet was summoned to the White House for a special session. Lincoln was reading a book as everyone came in. Secretary of War Stanton later said this of the meeting:

“Finally the president turned to us and said, ‘Gentlemen, did you ever read anything of Artimus Ward? Let me read a chapter that is very funny.'”

The president then read aloud a skit called “Highhanded Outrage at Utica.” Stanton was furious, but Lincoln read on and, at the end, he laughed heartily. “Gentlemen,” he asked, “why do you not laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me day and night, if I did not laugh, I should die. And you need this medicine as much as I do.” It was at this same session that the president pulled a paper from his tall hat and read aloud the now immortalized Emancipation Proclamation.

He’s right — we may likely die without frequent and sustained doses of laughter. After all, they who laugh, last.

Have you had your belly laugh today?

Author unknown. If anyone has a proprietary interest in this story please authenticate and I will be happy to credit, or remove, as the circumstances dictate.

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A Laugh a Day