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  • This afternoon I listened to a fellow faculty member—who won this yearʼs university award for Distinguished Professor, give a talk about the creative power of laughter on the human spirit. He is a Philosophy professor and told us in one of his examples that ten years ago his department had been phased not out but under the umbrella of History. The symbolism is a joke in itself, if it doesnʼt involve you, your livelihood, your passion. He grieved the administrative decision, found it affecting his health and his attitude.

    Wanting actively to change his perspective, he decided to throw an Irish wake. He invited friends and colleagues, wrote a eulogy, gave the Philosophy department a proper burial in his backyard, and toasted happy memories. His point was well-made—and his audience laughed readily at the image of Dr. Randall tucking the Philosophy department into a shallow grave like a pet goldfish. He had found more than comfort in the ability to laugh at his position, to make other people laugh. He gained the power to let go of his anger.

    I drove home from this talk and walked for the first time the altered landscape across the street that is my view, with his message still ringing true in my ear and loss sinking into my belly. It is perhaps too soon for me to find the lightness, the forgiveness in this situation. Laughter does not seem the right action in this case. Housing developers have been leveling the wooded hillside across from my apartment complex since January. As you can see, the trees, undergrowth, and topsoil are all gone. It is all the more angry looking in the springtime, when it used to fill my windows and the humid Tennessee air with shading green.

    One step at a time to healing. For now, I will commune mournfully with Joni Mitchell and join my local forestry association. I hear they are in the process of negotiating a land purchase. Letʼs hope it goes through.
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