I have been to the mountain top and I have seen brothers and sisters!
No, seriously, I spent the Christmas vacation with the family at a friend’s cabin in the Catskills at the top of a mountain where there was no internet and no cell service. The cabin had no satellite television and I spent four days completely disconnected from the rest of the world.
I came down from the mountain top expecting to hear more about Presidential politics and was happy that was not the case.
But I did find George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Vera Rubin died.
Carrie Fisher, of course, was Hollywood royalty and apparently died after a massive heart attack. George Michael had some kind of heart incident. Rubin, who suffered from dementia passed from complications due to that condition on Christmas Day.
That night, without knowing of Rubin’s passing, my family and I took a hike into the forest and looked up into the dark skies of upstate New York.
There is nothing more humbling than staring into a dark sky and understanding how insignificant this small blue globe is in the panorama of creation and how ignorant and arrogant many of us are in our beliefs regarding – well just about everything.
Upon descending the mountain after days of playing chess, poker and eating well, I found myself facing hundreds of emails, hundreds of FB notifications and tweets, and dozens of unreturned phone calls.
Among the FB postings I found a comedian friend of mine, Rob Maher, made a joke about Prince finally being able to get with Princess Leia. Someone else posted “Too soon.”
The guy is a comedian, but he wasn’t amused by Rob’s post. For some people a joke needs to be placed a respectful distance from the traumatic event in order to be funny.
I’m not that guy.
It is never too soon.
In a life where you have to climb up to a mountain top to disengage, where FB, Twitter, email and cell phones keep you hopelessly linked to humanity even when you do not desire to be – any chance to laugh should not be wasted.
Laughter, as The Reader’s Digest title says, is the best medicine.
Before the Internet – you know the dark ages when we had land lines and our cell phones looked like old fashion lunch boxes – the space shuttle Challenger blew up.
Kentucky’s governor Martha Layne Collins watched the explosion on the television in her office while cameras rolled. To make sure the WKYT-TV news desk knew we had this footage I had to sprint about 50 yards from the governor’s office up a set of beautiful marble stairs and run to my bureau office. I got to the office out of breath and there, sitting at his desk in the bureau was a guy we called “Sparky” from the Cincinnati Post.
We called him “Sparky” because he almost set the office on fire once with his pipe, but that’s another story. “Sparky” saw me in a state of disarray and asked me why I was in such a hurry.
I explained to him what had occurred and I had to let my desk know we had video.
“Hey did you know Christa McAuliffe’s eyes were blue?”
I stopped. “Huh?”
“Yeah, one blew this way and one blew that way.”
I’m not even sure the bodies had hit the ground yet when “Sparky” started joking.
The graveyard humor increased and reached a crescendo during the week following that tragedy.
But this is not an isolated incident. Many first responders, military personnel, reporters, lawyers and doctors have a litany of post-mortem humorous observations they can pull out of their hats at any given moment.
It is a defense mechanism against the vicissitudes of life which can otherwise leave you in tears or pondering the insignificance of your existence without the beauty of a dark December sky to enjoy.
We need humor now more than ever – and I’m not too concerned about the timing – unless it is the comedic timing of the joke and how it’s told.
Everyone should head into the mountains for a few days. Disconnect and relax. If you can’t do that just unplug. Look around. Laugh.
As we cruise into the back end of 2016 and gear up for 2017 with Hunter Thompson’s patented “Fear and Loathing” on your mind, it is good to do the Rob Petrie thing – no not disappearing into a cabin in the Catskills to write the novel you know will never come. Just keep your sense of humor and your thumbs. You are going to need both for the coming year.
Don’t get it? Look it up and have a laugh. Happy New Year.