The world lost a charismatic and hilarious comedian, an audacious dreamer and a disciplined doer with the passing of Gene Wilder. His life, while not perfect, is instructive in that he understood the value of laughter, the power of dreaming and the requirement for doing.

Rather than having a moment of silence for Mr. Wilder, I would instead suggest a more appropriate tribute of a moment of laughter. With the challenges facing individuals, families, communities and our nation – a little laughter could go a long way. Abraham Lincoln noted, “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.”

Laughter lifts the heart, enlightens the mind and actually strengthens the soul. In our politically correct world we must never become so serious that we forget to laugh – especially at ourselves. A good joke, a funny prank, a silly story can make a bad day good and a good day great. A mentor of mine taught me, “Creating laughter is a noble quest – and as long as no one gets hurt and there isn’t any property damage, then it is a gift to both the receiver and giver.” The most memorable moments of our lives always include the laughter found in a good story, or the divine comedy we call daily living.

Mr. Wilder was an epic dreamer. His memorable role as Willy Wonka epitomized his personal belief in the power of big, outlandish and even seemingly impossible goals. He further portrayed such dreamers in Young Frankenstein and The Producers.

He captured in these characters something T.E. Lawrence eloquently declared long years ago, “All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, Awake to find it was vanity, But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, That they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.”

While evening dreams can be important and even inspiring – in the end, they impact little and change less until they can survive the light of day. Gene Wilder was a dreamer of the day. We must remember that America was founded on such dreams and that individuals and nations which lose their ability to dream big will become small.

Finally, Mr. Wilder was a disciplined doer. Action wasn’t just a shout from the director’s chair; action was a way of living. The old saying, “After all is said and done much more is said than is ever done,” could be the mantra for our political leaders, media pundits and for some of us everyday people. Less talk and more action would help us all recognize that proactively doing is simply a better way of being.

Over the course of his 83 years, Gene Wilder proved that laughter is still the best medicine; dreaming is the antidote to drudgery; and doing is the great elixir for all of life’s challenges.

For Sutherland Institute, this is Boyd Matheson. Thanks for engaging – because principle matters.

Boyd Matheson is president of Sutherland Institute.

This post is an edited transcript of Principle Matters, a weekly radio commentary broadcast on several radio stations across the country. The podcast can be found below.

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