Friday, July 11, 2014


A few days ago I began to read Marie Luise Knott’s Unlearning with Hannah Arendt.

In the early 1970s I had Hannah Arendt for classes and seminars at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research in New York City. She was a breath of fresh air.

But it was not until I started reading Knott’s chapter on “Laughter: The Sudden Turn of the Mind" did I realize that what I most appreciated was her humanness – the twinkle of laughter which one could occasionally glimpse in her eyes.

I am not finished the chapter but I wanted to share two quotes from the book.

In the early 1940s Arendt wrote:
“The friend of the oppressed will always need that great confidence in our fellow men which teaches us to laugh.”
There are too many overly serious persons seeking to change the world and to be in solidarity with the oppressed. We need the hope of laughter and confidence in others that Arendt noted.

The other quote is from Walter Benjamin whose thought she admired:
“Let me note in passing that there is no better starting place for thought than in laughter. Specifically, the convulsion of the diaphragm usually offers better opportunities for thought than the convulsion of the soul.”
I think we need a lot more laughter in our lives and in our world – so that we can think more freely and more imaginatively and so that we can be real friends with the oppressed.

More thoughts to come - as the laughter continues!

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