So I was talking with a four year old the other day, and we’ll skip any direct discussion of how that compares to talking with God or with any of his vocal admirers. This particular child was holding a toy that caught my interest and I asked if I could see it. He turned me down flat. Just said no. So I put on my best sad face, because I’ve often found playing on the empathy of small kids to be a useful tactic. And not too surprisingly, this time it worked. But before it worked, he laughed. Not a mere chuckle but a full on laugh.

My apparent misery struck him as funny.

Now I’ve noted before Robert Heinlein’s observation that all humor is based on someone’s misfortune, but it had never quite struck home to me before how innate that is to us. This child of four showed me just how early that develops.

I asked God why this is apparently bred into us and he said that it’s to give us perspective. First we learn to laugh at other people’s pain, then we can see that it’s okay for them to laugh at ours. From there it’s just a tiny step to being able to laugh at ourselves and our own pain, and if we can laugh when it hurts, we can make it okay.

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