Throughout the animal kingdom, there is a general relationship between an animal's size and how fast its heart beats: the larger the animal, the slower its heart beats. An adult blue whale with a heart the size of a small car has one of the slowest heart rates of all.
Researchers have been able to record whale heartbeats directly by listening to them from inside of submarines. When it is at the surface, a whale typically has a heart rate of about five or six beats per minute. When it dives, the whale's heart slows down to about three beats per minute. What an amazing Creator the whale has!
The whale's heart slows down when it dives in order to save oxygen, and to keep the precious substance in the central body rather than letting it get used up in the fins, skin, and other outer body parts.
“Laughter,” writes my colleague, Mark Eckel, “is an indication of ethics. Watching a Jay Leno monologue,” he continues, “forces us to laugh at the ethical lapses in peoples’ attitudes and actions.” But, he suggests, we need to monitor our laughter. There may just be, in his words, “a guide for Christians to explain when laughter is ethically appropriate and when it is not.”1
Everyone who has attended a movie theater has probably had the experience of listening to a part of the audience laugh at incidents in the movie which are not funny, things like violence to a particular individual or cruelty to an animal. Such laughter leaves one chilled. And it is an indication of our society that such laughter is growing more frequent. But, before we look to the culture at large, it is much more important to analyze ruthlessly just what we are laughing at, particularly on television and in our private conversations with our friends.
Eckel, quoted earlier, compares the potential difference in our laughter at two television sitcoms: The Simpsons, a much-written about sitcom among Christians because of its witty but ironic portrayal of, in Eckel’s words, “the dark side of human nature,” and Will and Grace, a program that seeks to make the homosexual lifestyle and all sexually active characters benign and, therefore, acceptable. In The Simpsons, Eckel notes, “the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of all groups and individuals in American culture are pointed out… using sardonic wit… to mirror shortcomings, creating a climate for change” through the viewer’s “distress and unease [at] seeing wrongdoing in both attitude and action.” In contrast, Will and Grace promotes the acceptance of its characters and their lifestyles through “self-deprecating” laughter that “cuts off the rough edges and softens [the viewer’s] attitudes” by making the characters endearing and “excluding the consequences of [their] behavior.”2
This is very wise analysis, one we must take seriously. T. S. Eliot said long ago that what entertains us, what we laugh at, may just affect us more than what we study or labor over because our spirits and minds are relaxed and receptive. We have turned our mental security systems off and what amuses may seem somehow too trivial to harm us. There is no part of our lives that does not, however, belong to God. We must never bypass our intellects or suspend our critical thinking ability even in our laughter. Laughter has the power, as in The Simpsons, to be a cultural commentary that brings understanding and conviction, and it has the power, as in Will and Grace, to seduce and soothe one into indifference to dangerous secular trends.
The question is crucial: What are we laughing at and why? For the Moody Broadcasting Network, this is Rosalie de Rosset.