Laughter Clubs, a form of yoga, began developing in the 1990’s and now form a movement with over 8.000 groups of people gathering around the world, usually in the morning in a park, to simply laugh as a form of healing. The human body cannot apparently differentiate between real, spontaneous laughter and laughter brought about intentionally – fake laughter that soon enough can turn into real laughter. Haven’t we all experienced the contagion of uncontrolled laughter that sometimes catches us at the most inopportune moments? I certainly hope you have! Laughter raises our heart rates, increases blood flow, lowers stress thereby boosting our immune system, lowers blood sugar levels, and yes, even burns calories. Sadly, not enough to justify extra chocolate. Those are just some of the physical benefits. What is more psychologically healing than bonding with others around us over something humorous?
Handel’s Messiah has just such a moment of laughter. With obvious playfulness in one of the choruses from Part II of Messiah Handel illustrates for us that we all, like sheep, go astray. Silly sheep. The music twists and turns in its own way, giddily jumping from one voice part to another, without any sense of fear or consequence, and that would be such a fun place to remain.
But Handel reminds us at the end of this chorus that God sent his son to bear the weight of our transgressions. It is sobering. There may be no better musical example of our unworthiness for such a gift. Fortunately, the Hallelujah Chorus is coming in a half hour or so to lighten the mood! (during a full performance of Messiah that is)
Today is the feast day for Saint Luke, Evangelist and patron saint of healing. We have here two possibilities for healing. One is within your control – the gift of laughter. The other is given to all, worthy or not – the gift of life.