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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 4-1-22 – Whoopie Cushions in Our Lifeboats!

“A Genius is he who finds the fool in him, Happy Fools Day” ― Jagadeesh Kumar

I am grateful that yesterday, I won the uber mega fantastico lottery, I am now a quadtrillionaire, Julie and I will be looking at houses in Scotland and the Caribbean to enjoy seasonally. I have decided to use my newfound wealth to be the benefactor that the recovery community has long sought, desperately needs but has not yet found to champion recovery and grow recovery efforts across America. Rejoice, all!

But of course, you know better. Today is the first day of April. My wealth is not monetary. I am a loser as a gambler, so I don’t even do it. There is no reward. I drop a dollar on a table or into a machine and it just goes away. Poof. Gone. That is probably a good thing, as reward like that for me might lead to a problem. I don’t need a gambling dopamine reward pathway in my noggin. I don’t think I have played the lottery once in the last 20 years, so in that way I have minimized my losses. But I digress here. It is April Fool’s Day. It is our day, fellow fools, and travelers.

Why do we celebrate a day for pranks, laughing, and getting people to believe falsehoods? How long have we done so? Before this post, I had never looked into it. We are not quite sure why we celebrate April fool’s day. According to this article, one explanation is that 460 years ago, France was shifting its calendar away from the Julian calendar, which failed to account for a fraction of a day. It lost a day every 100 years and starts around the spring equinox. It was creeping backwards over the years. It lost roughly half a month over the 1600 years it was used. A big problem.

They shifted to the Gregorian calendar, which has become the world standard. It does a better job of accounting for the extra fraction of a day. A year under the Julian calendar was 365.25 days. Our rotation around the sun is actually 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45.25 seconds long. As we all well know, the Gregorian calendar starts on January 1. This change was a result of the Council of Trent in 1563. It must have been a very disorienting time. The perfect opportunity for the more humor-oriented people to lean into it the chaos of change and have a little fun as a coping mechanism. I appreciate and respect that mentality. These are my people.

I don’t play April Fools pranks. I don’t waste my energy facilitating a prank on the day that people expect it. I often did harmless pranks in the workplace, and in return, have found my office filled with packing peanuts, a #10 pool ball (the very one above) suspended on fishing wire across my entire office and other good-natured ruses. This particular ball with a hole drilled through it shows up everywhere over the years. It was found in the walls of the Halfway Home of the Lehigh Valley, put there for some unknown reason long ago and becoming a thing of staff lore.

Such elaborate tom foolery helped us make it through the day. This article from Today talks about historic pranks like a 1950s British newscaster reporting that the spaghetti harvest had improved due to the eradication of the spaghetti weevil, that Taco Bell had purchased the Liberty Bell or that Burger King had introduced the left-handed whopper. The latter two are also clever gorilla marketing strategies. Last year, I saw a suspicious article on this date about how a geological formation on the Isle of Sky, Scotland, the Old Man of Storr had toppled in a freak storm. Well done.

I did those lighthearted pranks because the work was so difficult for our entire team that we needed a laugh just to keep going. So much loss and never-ending barriers to help keep people from dying and to support their respective recovery process. Thinking about the importance of a day devoted to pranks, laughing, and our own gullibility. To not take ourselves so seriously even when things seem so dire. I can see why its celebration has survived for half of a millennium.

We are all at some level fools with potential for moments of genius or great things despite our flaws. It is the essence of humanity. Indeed, we must laugh to keep from crying or giving up at times. It shows we are not defeated. Pandemics, death, economic strife, isolation, inequity, and war are the themes of our era. We are not the first people in history to live in such challenging times. One of my all-time favorite quotes is Voltaire who was born in the 17th century. He said “if this life is a shipwreck, we must rescue as many as we can, and not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” Perhaps we also need a bunch of dad jokes like my friend Phil Valentine enjoys sharing, or some good-natured pranks to keep our humor up when times are hard. A few whoopie cushions for our lifeboats. Being able to laugh is foundational to our survival.

Even on some of my darkest days, there have been flashes of profound irony or dark humor that got me to chuckle just long enough to get through the moment. I found some fascinating discussions about how after 911, comedians, some of whom were within blocks of the smoking rubble responded to what happened. I highly recommend this powerful feature length movie on YouTube called “Too Soon.” It was anything but a funny time, but they knew we needed comedy. It was horrific, but we also desperately needed to find reason to laugh so we could carry on.

I am grateful for April Fool’s Day. It is our day, people. Laughing at our flaws, our gullibility and the human condition in general is mission critical. We must laugh at ourselves and to help our fellow travelers to also chuckle, especially on tough days. It can be a lifesaver. If you facilitated or fell for a prank today, please share it. Like everyone else, I need a good laugh. I am grateful for the ability to laugh, even at myself, which I am not always so good at.

What are you grateful for today?

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