Laughter

‘Abdu’l-Bahá loved laughter and His laughter was often a source of solace. One writer observed that once He laughed so heartily at the observations and questions directed to Him that ‘Hus turban became disarranged. As He lifted His hands to straighten it, He smiled as though we had a little joke between us.’ When the Master was in America He was visited by May Maxell, with little Mary, and Juliet Thompson. They had a delightful visit together, but eventually Juliet became concerned and asked, ‘Don’t we tire You? Oughtn’t we to leave You now?’ He answered, ‘No, stay. You rest Me. You make Me laugh!’ On one occasion He was delighted thinking about a certain joke. He seemed to have in mind to tell it. His friends pleased that He do so. ‘No, I cannot, for every time I try to tell it I laugh so I cannot speak.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 169)


‘Abdu’l-Bahá told them a story which made them laugh. He Himself laughed heartily, and again with them when they, encouraged by the lead He had given, also told amusing stories. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and his guests were full of mirth throughout that luncheon. It was ‘good to laugh‘, He told them; ‘laughter is a spiritual relaxation’. At this point He referred to His years in prison. Life was hard, He said, tribulations were never far away, and yet, at the end of the day, they would sit together and recall events that had been fantastic, and laugh over them. Funny situations could not be abundant, but still they probed and sought them, and laughed.
(H.M. Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá - The Centre of the Covenant, p. 31)


One day in London ‘Abdu’l-Bahá heard laughter coming from the kitchen. Delighted, He joined the happy people. ‘It appeared that the Persian servant had remarked: “In the East women wear veils and do all the work.” To which [the] English housekeeper had replied: “In the West women don’t wear veils, and take good care that the men do at least some of the work. You had better get on with cleaning that silver."’ The Master joined in the laughter.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 175)


Two ladies had an interview with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in New York City. Ella Quant wrote about that occasion: ‘He told Margaret He prayed for her parents (who had passed into the life beyond some months before). Her eyes filled with tears and overflowed; mine then did likewise. The interpreter, perhaps at a loss, shook his head at us and said in an admonishing tone that we should never cry in His presence. It made Him sad. As I looked up, I saw that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s sadness was for us – not for Himself – for with hands outstretched to calm and protect us, like a mother bird hovering over her young in the next, He explained in English, Laugh! Laugh! I shall never forget that voice, vibrant and powerful beyond any words of mine to express. In that voice I have come to see the power of heaven to rout all negative forces of existence, and in arising to obey that command to find the eternal joy of life.’ The Master could call for laughter even at a time such as that – this need not seem strange when one realizes that He saw death as ‘a messenger of joy‘.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 172)


One summer day a luncheon was held in Dublin, New Hampshire, in the home of Mrs Parsons who had ‘asked some twenty people, all outstanding in various walks of life, to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Culture, science, art, wealth, politics, achievement – all were represented.’ ‘Most of those present at this luncheon party knew a little of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s life history, and, presumably, were expecting a dissertation from Him on the Bahá’í Cause. The hostess had suggested to the Master that He speak to them on the subject of Immortality. However, as the meal progressed, and no more than the usual commonplaces of common society were mentioned, the hostess made an opening, as she thought, for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to speak on spiritual things. ‘His response to this was to ask if He might tell them a story, and He related one of the Oriental tales, of which He had a great store and at its conclusion all laughed heartily.
‘The ice was broken. Others added stories of which the Master’s anecdote had reminded them. Then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, His face beaming with happiness, told another story, and another. His laughter rang through the room. He said that… It is good to laugh. Laughter is a spiritual relaxation. When they were in prison, He said, and under the utmost deprivation and difficulties, each of them at the close of the day would relate the most ludicrous event which had happened. Sometimes it was a little difficult to find one but always they would laugh until the tears would run down their cheeks. Happiness, He said, is never dependent upon material surroundings, otherwise how sad those years would have been. As it was they were always in the utmost state of joy and happiness.’ That was the nearest He came to talking about the Bahá’í message but the effect on those present was undoubtedly greater than any ‘learned dissertation would have caused in them‘. ‘After the guests had gone, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was leaving for His hotel, He came close to His hostess and asked her, with a little wistful smile, almost, she was used to say, like a child seeking approbation, if she were pleased with Him.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 170)