Laughter and Love

What’s the truest sign of love? An obvious answer might be the willingness to sacrifice oneself for someone else. A less obvious answer–but a very valid one, I think–is the ability to laugh with someone else, even in the direst of circumstances. Laughter draws on shared experiences–shared joys–shared sorrows. It’s a sign of a relationship’s depth.

In Book VI of Homer’s Iliad, war has already broken out between the Greeks and the Trojans. During a pause in the fighting, the Trojan hero, Hector, returns home to talk with his wife. They spend many lines expressing fear and dread about the future, and then Hector goes to take his infant son in his arms:
“but the boy recoiled…screaming out at the sight of his own father, terrified by the flashing bronze, the horsehair crest, the great ridge of the helmet nodding, bristling terror–so it struck his eyes. And his loving father laughed, his mother laughed as well, and glorious Hector, quickly lifting the helmet from his head, set it down on the ground…and raising his son he kissed him, tossed him in his arms” (Iliad 6.557-66; trans. Robert Fagles).

The world is crashing down around Hector and his wife, but they still find it in themselves to laugh at their baby’s reaction. This, I think, is a sign of their deep and solid relationship. It has been tested; it has endured. Theirs is no fly-by-night romance, but real love.


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