Laughter is a special sign of play. Laughter can be escapist, con¬trived, or cynical, but not when it is God laughing through us. Then it is simply restful celebration of the life that is. Such laughter is schoolmaster too. It teaches us humility. “It notes how far all earthly and human things fall short of the measure of God’

 And laughter is an equalizer, a leveler that deflates pretension. Laughter also can teach us the truth. Plotinus said we truly play because of our urge to attain the vision of God, because mere seriousness does not get down to the root of things, and because a spirit of “fun, irony, and humor often digs deeper and seems to get more easily—because more playfully—down to the truth.”

 A contemporary Kabbalistic Jewish mime, Samuel Avital, points to the opening, restful, healing physical effect of laughter: When you laugh, the whole system vibrates, a dancing dia¬phragm, dancing cells. All the cells are happy, and when you are happy you have a longer life. If you don’t furnish your cells with this vibration of dancing, which we intellectually call “laughing’’ you are robbing them of life.

So laughter is a transformer. Meister Eckhart, in one of his characteristically bold statements, plants laughter in the heart of divine creativity: When God laughs at the soul and the soul laughs back at God, the persons of the Trinity are begotten. To speak in hyperbole, when the Father laughs to the Son and the Son laughs back to the Father, that laughter gives pleasure, that pleasure gives joy, that joy gives love, and love gives the persons (of the Trinity) of which ” the Holy Spirit is one.

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