[Outer Court, Temple]George Herbert: "The Church-porch"

Day 20: Evening


Laugh not too much: the wittie man laughs least:

For wit is newes onely to ignorance.

Lesse at thine own things laugh; lest in the jest

Thy person share, and the conceit advance.

   Make not thy sport, abuses: for the fly

   That feeds on dung, is coloured thereby.

     Do not laugh too much: the genuinely witty man laughs least: for wit is news only to those who do not know. Laugh at your own humor less; otherwise you become part of the joke and advances the idea [that you are the joke]. Do not make abuses your sport: for the fly that feeds on dung is colored by it.

     It is good to laugh at other people's stories. Even if someone is unable to remember a joke, he may gain a reputation for a sense of humor if he laughs at other people's jokes. But do not laugh too much. When the witty man tells a joke, he lets others laugh; he does not have to laugh to prove that he is clever. Wit is only enjoyed by those who had not seen the humor before. The one who produces the quip knows the humor before he speaks it and has no reason to laugh loudly. Laugh just enough to show that it is to be enjoyed. If you laugh too much, you become the center of the jest and the wit is lost. Let the wit be the pleasure for the company; not your enjoyment of your own humor.

     When raillery become the central purpose, the joker takes on a selfish even dominating attitude. It is easy to turn entertainment into abuse, making fun of others, degrading them even to their faces as a sign of control over them. Be aware of the sting of ridicule before it gets out of control and turns on you. The fly becomes the same color as the dung it feeds on. Know what feeds your humor. Stop yourself before you harm your friends and those who could become your friends.

How many times can you stand the Fun House Laugh?

© 1997 J. R. Arner

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