Susan 0, Virgil 1

Anger conquers despair.
Laughter conquers anger.

I used to keep those words pinned up at work. I’d jotted them on a random piece of paper when that pattern of emotions had repeated itself a few times. I’d decided to see if that theory of emotional self-medication held up over time.

I use other ways to conquer anger and despair these days, but laughter is still one of my favorite ways to expel negative energy build-up. Recently, on a whim, I decided to do a quick search in Oremus, my online Bible of choice, to see what it said about laughing. What I found was amazing.

“Laugh” is embedded in the word “slaughter”, and that was the most prominent use for the l-a-u-g-h sequence of letters. Ugh. Look for a laugh and find a bloody death – men, women, children, birds, cows, goats, you name it – not exactly what I had in mind.

The next most frequent use of “laugh” was laughing derisively or scornfully or mockingly or in contempt – scoffing at someone else, or being the laughing-stock. Hey, I was looking for something positive!

There was precious little “real” laughter, like Abraham and Sarah laughing at the idea that they should be able to conceive a child when Sarah was so old. More often laughter was held up like any other transient emotion. Like in Luke: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh,” and a few paragraphs later, “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.”

And perhaps that’s the real truth behind my emotional formula. Each emotion conquers the other because none of them has staying power. Despair feels awful. Anger feels powerful. And laughter feels terrific. But they don’t last. Maybe that’s why the emotional formula we all know, the one we don’t have to pin up on a card, is this:

Love conquers all.

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