An Abundance of Potions

Day 24 – Soul Breathing

Good morning to all 229 readers, and happy hump day. The full archive of this newsletter is available here. You can also access it using the "view online" link at the bottom. —Jack

Today's challenge: Laugh.

Humor, during a crisis, can seem inappropriate. You might refrain from making jokes for fear of it being too soon, too insensitive. Fits of laughter can be followed by guilt—guilt that sudden, unexpected delight is the opposite of what you should be feeling, and of what others are feeling.

But human emotion doesn't lie on one-dimensional spectrums. Even during crisis, your wide landscape of feeling is not only wholly appropriate, but maybe more accessible than usual. To stifle laughter is to stifle a valuable way to cope and help others cope with crisis. As Lori Gottlieb writes, "For some, humor is a balm. It’s BOTH/AND: It’s horrible AND we can allow our souls to breathe."

Your challenge today is simple: Laugh. Revisit a favorite comedic movie or series (we've enjoyed Fleabag and pen15). Or watch one of the many stand-up comedy specials currently available on streaming services. Nightly talk show hosts like Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert are also recording from their homes (and sometimes bathtubs). Another option, if you're with family or roommates, is a tabletop or living room game. Cards Against Humanity has released a free, print-at-home beta of their new Family Edition, appropriate for both kids and adults.

Or, you can go the way of laughing yogis (it's a thing) and deliberately practice laughing. All it really takes, after all, is opening your mouth into a smile, and letting out a sharp, raucous breath of air.

O generation of the throughly smug
       and thoroughly uncomfortable.
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun.
I have seen them with untidy families.
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
       and heard their ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are.
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
       and do not even own clothing.

(Ezra Pound)