Illustration: Jamie Brown.

Illustration: Jamie Brown.

Doesn't the world, especially Australia, need more, or even some, faith in that 11th commandment Moses inadvertently omitted from the renowned 10? It is a commandment that experts claim is one of the greatest benefits and blessings to our health. Indeed, it can help us live longer, happier and more rewarding lives.

Know it? It is: Thou shalt laugh, especially at thyself. The wonderful gift of laughter and great faith it gives us allows us to confront the slings and arrows we may have to face. Let's remember, no matter who or what we are, we are all headed in the same ultimate direction and destination.

My father used to urge that throughout life I should have great faith in the hidden power of laughter and humour, but especially laughter. In all its diverse and engaging forms, it is the greatest faith one could have. Pay attention to the wits, satirists and those who prick vanities, the posturing (especially by our rulers) and, above all, those who take themselves oh so over-seriously.

''Faith in the power of laughter can be one of any [of the] Almighty's blessings,'' he would stress, especially when relating the latest act of chutzpah (or effrontery and presumption plus arrogance and gall). We are seeing it more in our state and federal parliaments and on the world scene in so many ways.

You have to laugh or cry, or both - but especially laugh - to safeguard one's faith in oneself, democracy and the rule of law.

No wonder there are comedy clubs - and a faith that laughter, even honest ridicule, can move mountains, change opinions, bring peoples together and combat prejudice, hatred and racism.

Gathering material for children's books about different countries, I found humour travels the world. It can bring people closer. It always seems funnier if a laughter-inducing episode happens to someone else - as I have found when trying to ape the old banana-skin routine or very amateurishly, those laughter-making incidents of Charlie Chaplin.

A key ingredient in the News and Views sessions I run for over-50s is humour in general and laughter in particular. The group, including three over-90s, recently said a laugh a day was their key to living and always had been. ''That's why I am 90,'' one insisted.

In these difficult economic times remember - laughter and faith in it is free!

Stan Marks is a Melbourne writer.