The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

August 30, 2013

Genius in his own time

“If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of Congress?” ~ Will Rogers

I’m a firm believer in the closer you are to something, the less you are able to see and appreciate it.

Make no sense?

Some years ago, during a conversation with a young man from Pennsylvania on Waukomis’ Main Street — sitting smack on the Chisholm Trail — I was struck by the fact he was so enamored by its history, and the history of the Land Run of 1893.

Here in this corner of the Plains, we take it for granted. It’s everyday.

Yet, he said he grew up about a mile from Valley Forge, one of the most revered Revolutionary War spots in our nation’s history — yet had never visited the site.

He had taken it for granted.

Oklahomans may have taken humorist and native son Will Rogers for granted lo these many years as well. He was just Will to Oklahomans.

To the rest of the world, he was perhaps the greatest wit of his age — or any age.

In coming months, we will be sharing on this opinion page the wit and wisdom and downright funny utterances of one Will Rogers. You know, the guy we named Oklahoma City’s airport after.

I submit to you today, that of all the human virtues, talents, beliefs, strengths, loves, hates and everything in between, humor is our best — the strongest.

You can have an acquaintance you can’t agree with on any point, whether it’s politics or religion or the economy.

Yet, if the two of you share a funny story, a joke, a humorous incident you both saw and relate to — and have a good laugh — you will always have a connection with that person.

Even if it’s just for a few minutes, laughter as they say, is truly a powerful medicine.

I’ve been lucky all my life to have been around people who are funny and like to laugh. I want to be around people who are funny and like to laugh.

Troubles go away. Stress flies in its face. Anger is disarmed.

Humor and laughter are the most powerful internal drug ever for the human condition.

And let’s be frank, not every day is funny, not every situation. When it’s time to be serious, we are serious. When it’s time to buckle down and work your butt off, most of us do.

But without humor, without laughter, the greatest among us, the richest, the most powerful, are God’s poorest wretches if they cannot laugh.

Like I said before, I was lucky to have been around funny all my life. My dad was joking, my great-aunt Pauline was funny and her daughter Judy still is funny. My great-uncle Hoofie was a riot.

I’ve had many friends who are funny. I’ve laughed so hard I couldn’t breath sometimes, when I was a volunteer, kidding around with some of the men of women serving with Waukomis Fire & Rescue. And some of the funniest people I know are Civil War living history re-enactors.

I had a lot of funny high school classmates and acquaintances, and some really hilarious teachers.

A person who can share humor and laughter is a treasure, and fortunately, there are a lot of them running around.

Shoot, I think dogs and cats are able to make us laugh because of some unseen power.

Tell me you haven’t had a dog or a cat just make you howl at something they have done.

Maybe, it’s just the fact we are able to find humor in sometimes bad situations, that sets us apart on this planet.

And where does humor come from, anyway?

I can’t define it. It is some nebulous gift many have that allows us to sometimes disarm the worst of situations.

And that brings me back to Will Rogers. I don’t care what your political persuasion, you’re view of your community, your state, your nation or your world, you can relate to a lot of the things this special Oklahoman said and wrote about.

Maybe it’s just that he tragically died in a plane crash before he grew to old age. He was a genius in his own time.

I’ve always wondered, had Abraham Lincoln not died before his time, would we still view him as we do today?

Many brilliant musicians and actors and other celebrities have died young, giving us a glimpse of some great talent, and then having it yanked from us in untimely death.

William Penn Adair Rogers was taken from Oklahomans and the rest of the world at age 55, in a plane crash at Point Barrow, Alaska, some 78 years ago this month. His statue today stands in the halls of power on Washington’s Capitol Hill.

Oh, that all of our leaders had the common sense, the wit and wisdom of Will Rogers — the ability to laugh at himself and to help us laugh with him.

Now there is a truly great American!

Christy is news editor at the Enid News & Eagle. Go to his column blog at http://enid news.com/historicallyspeaking

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