Letters to the Editor

Where has the enjoyment gone? It seems so long ago when most were happy. Yet, it has been only since last spring, when the Coronavirus arrived and interfered with our lives. With the Coronavirus and the reactions to it, most of the things that people enjoy were brought to a screeching halt or replaced with concern, caution, and/or fear.

The theaters closed, concerts ended, major sports stopped, weddings, receptions, and graduations have been delayed or canceled. Public fairs, festivals, and gatherings were ended or limited to ten, while many beaches, parks, and amusements closed. One even hesitates to hug a friend or close relative. Instead of “love” thy neighbor, it is staying 6 feet away from thy neighbor, and wear a mask to protect them or oneself because they or you may be infected. The worst thing about wearing a mask, other than the discomfort and fogging of lenses, is that it takes away and hides the smile of recognition and friendship, and the return of that smile from another, verifying that recognition and friendship.

So, what is it about the “enjoyment” that is missing? The enjoyment response starts with the awareness of something that is a little unexpected or not immediately understood (a startling surprise). The mind quickly searches the memory for an explanation or similar experience, and if found relatively fast (a narrow time slot) and if it triggers an emotional response that is pleasant, it is “enjoyment.” The “giggles” occur when one gets caught in a circular loop in which one’s own response, or that of another, is unexpected and continues to retrigger that “enjoyment response.” The “enjoyment response” requires the lack of immediate understanding, so that with repetition, or as one’s experience and understanding increases it changes and often reduces one’s area for that “Enjoyment” (a pleasant, but unexpected surprise). As one ages, one’s reaction time slows and it further narrows that time window for an “enjoyment response.” That is why, if one immediately knows the joke, or if it takes too long to get the joke, then it is not funny. The longer that search time is extended the more irritating rather than enjoyable it becomes. 

But getting back to “enjoyment”, some things (regardless of one’s age) are always enjoyable. An unexpected smile from someone, or the “giggles,” which are contagious. Sometimes just thinking about the “giggles” can enable one to relive that enjoyable experience, whether it was one’s own giggling or that of a friend, a loved one, or a small child. The “giggles” are one of the special, rare, gems of fun that one can experience in life.

Terry O’Neill, Lake Geneva resident, and former alderperson

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