To LOL or to COL

As I think of our prospects for the future—Trump, Clinton, Cruz, Sanders, Rubio—my first thought is NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

But then I remember this:

"The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter." —Mark Twain

I’ve often struggled with knowing the appropriate places and times for humor. It’s sort of my go-to escape route for sad and depressing situations (like the 2016 presidential race). More than once in my life I’ve received admonishments like:

This is neither the time nor the place…
No one likes a smart aleck.
What are you, some kind of wisenheimer?

I’m not trying to say I’m funny, but sometimes I try. I want people to be happy.

I was however, recognized by my fourth grade teacher for my gift of humor, as well as my "gay outlook". She told my parents so in her letter at the end of the school year. (At the time though, I don’t remember her always appreciating my gifts.)

Speaking of politics, and sometimes having to laugh to keep from crying, Here’s a good one from comic Samantha Bee:

“Wednesday night, the Democrats met for a town hall where Bernie Sanders, dressed in what appears to be the Democratic Party’s big tent, played up his image of blustery old grandpa living off Social Security checks and stolen sugar packets.”

I refer to humor as a gift (one that I hope I have in some small measure), but I can’t find it in the Bible as a “gift”, like speaking in tongues or healing… But wait, I have been healed by humor many times; and to the humorless, bitter, mean people of the world you might as well be speaking in some unknown tongue when it comes to funny-speak.

So, where does God stand on humor? I won’t even presume. A wonderful old comic that I had the privilege of knowing was a guy named Grady Nutt. (How can you not be funny if you last name is “Nutt”. Right?) Grady observed that God must have a sense of humor. Why else would he have created us with our nose, which is prone to run, right above our mouth. And thankfully God placed it with the holes down, otherwise going for a walk in the rain could cause drowning.

“Theorists have been trying to explain humor as far back as Plato. The ancient Greek philosopher said humor got its power from the pleasure people get when they feel superior over others, laughing at their foibles and flaws. Freud saw it as a cathartic release from society’s repressions, thus explaining all our sex and fart jokes. And Hegel saw it as reconciling two normally incongruous spheres of meaning—i.e., showing a football player in a cheerleading outfit or putting a cat in human clothes.” —

… or trying to actually picture Ted Cruz or The Donald in the Oval Office.

Please, David Letterman, come out of retirement. We need to laugh until it hurts so bad it hurts.

"USA Today has come out with a new survey - apparently, three out of every four people make up 75% of the population." --David Letterman

"I’m just trying to make a smudge on the collective unconscious." --David Letterman


IF YOU'RE GOING TO WRITE A BLOG you want to believe you have something to say, and you want to hope someone out there besides your mother will read it. Sometimes, depending on the topic you’re writing about, you want to create a sense that you might know what you’re talking about. I’m going to try that.

  • I majored in journalism at The University of Tulsa.
  • I’ve been to Paris.
  • I love satire.
  • I was once beaten up for a satirical comment.

It was fifth grade, recess on the playground at Jenks Elementary School. There was this kid that was purported to have been in fifth grade for a few years now. I quipped that, "I bet if he ever finished fifth grade he would probably be so excited that he might cut himself shaving." Word quickly spread. He was mad, out for revenge, and it would all go down at recess. Sure enough here he came. He walked up to the jungle gym I had climbed to the top of, hoping for a battle advantage. He took a long drag from his Marlboro, flipped it to the asphalt, and ground it out with his boot. A crowd gathered, like happens when there’s likely to be blood shed on the playground. Fortunately, the crowd drew the attention of the teachers “on duty”. The crowd dispersed, disappointed. After school, as I walked to the school bus, here he came around the corner. He pulled my blue, canvas-like notebook from my arms. He said, “You hurt my feelings kid. Now I’m going to hurt yours.” Then he whacked me across the head with my own notebook. I lay in the gravel stunned for a minute, then he reached down and helped me up, dusted me off and offered me a Marlboro. [At least in my fifth grade/now 64 year-old mind that’s the way I remember it.]

I know that Sticks and Stones and (maybe even 3-ring binders) can break one’s bones, but as it turns out, sometimes, Words do hurt.

I feel bad for having a laugh at Harper's expense, but what a great metaphor this is. Surely you've had times when you were having a great time and all of a sudden you find yourself tangled up in your own balloons.

I feel bad for having a laugh at Harper's expense, but what a great metaphor this is. Surely you've had times when you were having a great time and all of a sudden you find yourself tangled up in your own balloons.

For the most part, here at About Pops, I try to stay clear of hardcore politics. So what I’m aiming for here isn’t at all political commentary. It’s just me thinking out loud. Oh, and don’t you dare go away from this trying to say that I am in any way was justifying the ugly deeds of terrorists in Paris. AND, assuming anyone is still reading this (which I realize is an enormous jump to a conclusion), don’t think for a second that I am trying to equate getting beat up on the playground with the massacre at the magazine studio.

In journalism school we were taught with conviction that a free press is crucial, and I believe it. But free press or not, free speech or not, words and cartoons sometimes hurt. As I learned in the fifth grade, we are free to say whatever we want. That doesn’t mean though that we might not get hit in the head with a notebook.

I didn’t learn a lot from that day. I still love satire (I'm writing this post aren't I?). It seems we need to be secure enough in our convictions that we can laugh at ourselves. If you read my post called, Keeping Company, I chose David Letterman, Tina Fey and Amy Pohler as guests at my dinner because, although I am sometimes offended, they make me laugh.

Does humor sometimes hurt? Yes. Does it sometimes offend? Yes. Does it incite anger? Yes. Do we need to laugh? Yes.

I’m trying to reconcile our need to laugh and the fact that in the end, sometimes, Words; like Sticks and Stones, do hurt.

DISCLAIMER: If I’ve offended anyone here, I’m sorry. I hope you were at least a bit entertained. See what I mean? This is a conundrum.

Feeling Pretty Self-Actualized If I Do Say So Myself

I'LL ADMIT IT. One of the scariest aspects of being a "man of a certain age" is the fear that I've reached THE END. Not the physical end, but that place old guys seem to come to where they stop growing; again, not in a physical sense, but as a person. You know what I mean: they think they've seen it all, heard it all and know it all. They "arrived"!

Maybe what's so scary about that for me is thinking that if I have arrived, then this is all I have to offer--that I've become all I can become except a cranky, old, dogmatic, Fox-News watching, horses's a-double-s.

When I was first introduced to the idea of "self-actualization" (especially Abraham Maslow's take on it) back in college, it rang very true for me. Without going in to the whole concept, let's overly narrow it down to this: Think of a continuous line, like a ruler. On one end is our Potential. On the other is our Actual. So, if I become a healthy self-actualized adult, it means, very simply, that I've moved along the scale from potential to actual. By the way, Maslow speculated that less than 1% of the population ever becomes fully self-actualized.

I hope, I HOPE, that during this era that I like to call my "second-coming of age", I will realize brand new, deeper and more significant potentials I can pursue.

But wait. Let me get my horse and cart in the right order. There are a couple of issues I need to clarify.

One: for those of you who are saying to yourself (as if anyone is still reading this), "I knew this guy was a 'secular humanist' all along. Just listen to this drivel," you're not the first.

Back in the day, I had a job as a teacher/consultant of sorts for people who worked with adolescents in churches. I would frequently use Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to talk about what can happen as a teen develops. One time I was leading a conference for youth leaders in southeastern Oklahoma. A man came in to the conference wearing a snappy pair of white patent leather loafers and matching belt (think: Cousin Eddie) and introduced himself as "Pastor Roy Somethingorother." When I asked Pastor Roy why he had chosen to come to a conference for youth leaders he told me that he was only there to monitor what I had to say, to make sure I was not a "humanist."

All during the meeting I noticed him making notes in a miniature stenographers notebook like a reporter at a Whitehouse briefing. I expected at any moment for him to jump to his feet and shout, "Bingo, we've got ourselves a heretic!" He never did, and I never heard anything from Roy or whomever he was representing. Maybe he was just taking notes for his next sermon.

I do believe that we are created in the image of a creative God to be fully human. If that makes me a humanist, so be it.

Next: there is the big question of knowing what our potential is. Remember that line, our continuum, with POTENTIAL on one end and ACTUAL on the other? Before we can actually reach our POTENTIAL we need to know what it is. But where do we find that out?

Back when I was a kid, our report cards from school had a place for the teacher to record, in her opinion, whether or not we were "performing up to our potential." There was a consensus among my teachers that I was "NOT." There may have been one exception to that, my fourth grade teacher, even though she did check the "needs to improve" box.

Recently around our house, we've been going through some old stuff: treasures, photos, heirlooms, etc. In one of the boxes I ran across old report cards my mother had saved; although I'm not sure why unless she wanted to show them to parents of troubled kids to demonstrate there's always something to hope for.

Attached to my final fourth grade report card was a note from my teacher to my parents.

[If you can't read the letter in this image, I've included the text of it below.]

I'm glad that I didn't see this letter until 50-plus years later. It could have become a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts had I seen it at the time. Instead, I like to imagine it as some sort of destiny.

I take heart that I helped make my teacher's career more pleasant. I like that she picked up on and commended my "gay outlook to everything," (I'm taking that to mean the 1960 definition of the word. Not that there's anything wrong with a more 2000s definition.) I am also relieved to note that my teacher apparently only owned a red ink pen and it wasn't just that all of my papers were graded in red. I liked the way she pretended to struggle with the proper use of  the are/is  verb form and its agreement with "Boys" or "David" just to make the rest of us feel good.

But I am most proud that Mrs. Burchette noticed, early on, a POTENTIAL for a sense of humor and that even THAT could take me "far in life." And, although I'm sure my parents had rather read something like, "He has the intellect of a rocket scientist", I feel SO self-actualized.

So, when my Grand-Girls say, "You're funny Pops," I think to myself, "Yes! Yes I am!" Thank you Mrs. Burchette, wherever you are.

Text of the letter:

The Fullers,

It was a pleasure having David in my room this year. Boys like David are what make a teacher's career pleasant. He always seems to have a gay outlook to everything.

It was also nice meeting and talking with you. I want to thank you for all the help you gave me in working with David.

He is a boy to be proud of and with his sense of humor he will go far in life.

Mrs. Burchette