Make 'em laugh and they'll learn better than if you hit them with a stick. The theorists say it better than that but the truth is still there: humour works.

Make ‘em laugh and they’ll learn better than if you hit them with a stick.

The theorists say it better than that but the truth is still there: humour works. None of our bosses had the subtlety of the professor conducting the first anatomy lesson on a dead cow to his first-year veterinary students.

“In animal medicine it’s necessary veterinarians have two important qualities,” he began. “The first: you’ll not be disgusted by anything involving the animal body, for example.”

He then pulled back the sheet covering the body, stuck his finger in the butt of the dead cow, withdrew it and stuck it in his mouth.

“Now you all do the same thing,” he instructed. The students freaked out, hesitated, but eventually all followed suit.

When they were done, the Professor closed the lesson saying, “The second most important quality is observation. I stuck in my middle finger, and sucked on my index finger. Now learn to pay attention!”

It’s August 9, 2009, and don’t you sometimes wonder if we, the people of the world, are paying any more attention than some of the professor’s students? Sixty-four years ago today, a bomb called the Fat Man was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, and more than 80,000 people died. Thousands of others died of their wounds, and of radiation in later years. Amy Goodman reminds us, “Currently, the nine nuclear powers – the United States, Russia, France, England, China, Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea – have more than 27,000 operational nuclear weapons among them.” It sure reminds me of Pete Seeger singing, “When will they ever learn?”

We live in hope, and need to laugh lest we cry, and maybe take the lead of the two nuns shopping in a food store. As they passed the beer section one asked the other if she’d like a beer. The second nun agreed, but said she’d feel uncomfortable buying it. The first nun said, “No problem.” She took a six-pack, to the cashier and said, “This is for washing our hair.” Without blinking an eye, the cashier put a bag of pretzels in with the beer, saying, “The curlers are on me.”

Sixty-four years is ancient history to the two young boys who walked into a pharmacy one day, picked out a box of tampons and went to the checkout counter.

The druggist asked the older boy, “Son, how old are you?”

“Eight,” the boy replied.

“Do you know what these are used for?” the druggist asked.

“Not exactly,” the boy answered, “but they aren’t for me. They’re for him. He’s my brother. He’s four. We saw on TV that if you use these you would be able to swim and ride a bike, and he can’t do either!”

I do hope they, and their generation, do not forget!

You have to wonder if these boys came from the same home as the old, tired-looking dog who wandered into a stranger’s home. I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home, the fellow related. He followed me into the house, laid down in a corner of the hall, and fell asleep. An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out.

The next day he was back, went to he same corner and slept for an hour.

This continued for two weeks. Curious, I finally pinned a note to his collar: “Every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap.” The next day he arrived with a different note pinned to his collar: “He lives in a home with 10 children—he’s trying to catch up on his sleep. Can I come with him tomorrow?”

I hope we’re not as tired as Rip Van Winkle, and we sleep too long.

A tip of the hat to history, which the wise ones tell us we are supposed to learn from lest we have to repeat it. And I suppose we should all bear in mind Ghandi’s advice: It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.

And a happy Discovery Day to you too!