"I am happier even than Jane; she only smiles, but I laugh." -Elizabeth Bennett, Pride and Prejudice
Here follow random reflections that I've been having on laughter...
Elizabeth Bennett is, as Jane Austen said, "quite the most delightful creature as ever appeared in print." What makes Lizzie so special? I think part of it is her inclination towards laughter.
There is an analysis of Pride and Prejudice somewhere online that examines all the different characters and their ability to laugh/ be laughed at. Lizzie, as she says "dearly loves a laugh", but she is unwilling to laugh at what is bad. But she laughs at Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and Mr. Collins because of their ridiculous pompousness. At the beginning, she attempts to find a fault in Mr. Darcy that she can laugh at, and is foiled. Towards the end of the novel, as her regard for him deepens, a sort of shyness develops, and she can no longer jest with him as freely as she used to. However, after their engagement, Lizzie is back to her playful bantering, although she tempers her laughter a little. Austen writes, "She remembered that he had yet to learn to be laught at, and it was rather too early to begin." A friend found me a quote that said, "Darcy must learn to laugh more, and Elizabeth must learn to laugh wisely."
Although it's an everyday occurence, laughter is in some ways, quite mysterious. I find it amazing that scientists cannot find the biological causes laughter. Tears can be explained by hormones and the nervous system. But laughter? Science has no clue. It's amazing that such an ordinary, commonplace reaction totally eludes a biological explanation. Laughter is divine.
Sarah laughs in the Bible, when she hears she is to bear a son. I wonder if she was laughing out of disbelief, or if it was partly because of the great joy she was experiencing. She was being touched by God, and her joy had no other outlet than laughter. When her son is born, she says "God made laughter for me; every one who hears will laugh over me." C.S. Lewis writes somewhere that it is only the serious things that can be laughed at. "Joy is the serious business of Heaven." Laughter is the language of the soul. Maybe that's why it's so contagious, because laughter is a soul expressing it's joy, and everyone else responds to such a spontaneous and beautiful expression of joy.