[FOUNTAIN]A sense of humor in somber timesMany anecdotes from the life of Sir Winston Churchill demonstrate what a master of humor he was. One morning, he overslept and was late to the House of Commons.
An opposition politician decided to make an issue of it. In a sarcastically respectful tone, he said that Great Britain did not need a lazy politician who rose so late in the day. Mr. Churchill, who was not the kind of man to back down easily, replied that if the honorable gentleman had a wife as beautiful as Mr. Churchill’s, he wouldn’t be getting up early in the morning either. Mr. Churchill’s opponent no doubt regretted having made the remark.
On another occasion, when U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt was staying at Mr. Churchill’s home, Mr. Roosevelt inadvertently surprised Mr. Churchill when he was still naked after a bath. As the story goes, Mr. Churchill said, “You can see that the Prime Minister of Great Britain has nothing to conceal from the President of the United States.”
The British historian and writer Paul Johnson considers a sense of humor to be one of the five traits of a great leader. The others, he says, are moral courage, judgement, a sense of priority, and the concentration and disposal of effort.
Kim Jin-bae, president of Korea’s Humor Management Research Center, says that leadership and a sense of humor share the same roots. The American writer Mark Twain made this point much clearer. He wrote, “The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.”
Life in this mundane world entails many sorrows and troubles. In such times, a warm heart is needed to share the pain. And humor is just right for conveying those warm feelings.
During the German bombing campaign in London during World War II, some of the walls of Buckingham Palace fell. The royal family announced that they were delighted to have a better view of the British people.
Of course, Britain did not succumb to the Blitz. And the war finally ended, with Germany’s defeat.
Last week, a north London resident named Rachel was on the subway near King’s Cross Station when it was bombed last week. She later recounted her experiences for the BBC News Web site.
“We tried to keep each other calm,” she wrote. “I remember saying: ‘If anyone’s boss gives them grief for being late, we know what to say to them, eh, girls?’”
There’s more to humor than there often seems at first. Sometimes it means composure, confidence and guts. As long as humor is alive in the British people, terrorism cannot defeat them.
by You Sang-cheol
The writer is the Asia news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.