“Laughter is the best medicine.” ~Anonymous
Whaddaya think? Are we born with it, or can a sense of humor be cultivated? I don’t know. But I do think that paradox in general is the cosmos having a laugh.
Humor is everywhere, really. We just have to be on the lookout for it, or choose to see the humor in a situation. It is in the paradoxical and ironical connections. Finding humor in a situation is an avenue of perception — a way of perceiving and understanding.
These funny-bone perceptions might be as everyday as a seagull strutting its stuff up and down a pier. Or it could be as quirky as the time my sister and I, in the silent, stuffy and shadow-filled funeral parlor where my mother lay, sang “Whistle While You Work,” as we made a death mask of Mother’s recently embalmed face. Giggling, we imagined the scandalized mortician lurking somewhere in the back as we worked our loving women’s magic on our mother’s remains. We found humor within our grief. Mother would have approved.
Less darkly, one might find merriment wearing a large, bright pink flamingo stuffed animal as a hat to dinner out with friends, or watching old Laurel and Hardy films, or making silly faces out the car window.
Humor can be physical, visual and auditory. And all of the above at once. Heck, we all know what humor is, don’t we? Do we? It is slapstick for one, parody for some, double entendres or nonsense words for still others. I love witty repartee. My brother is the all-time Champion of Punsters. Humor is in the eye of the beholder as much as is beauty. They are both a certain vibratory level that resonates with one… or not.
And have you noticed how it is the presence of the spirit of humor (that vibration, perhaps?) that can make all the difference in how a situation feels, is perceived. How many times have you said, “Well, you had to be there,” when re-telling what was, for you, a hilarious episode. Like my examples above, they pale in the re-telling. The funny-factor seems to evaporate without the inner alchemy being present in the retelling. (I suppose that is why we are not all Seinfelds, whose magic seems to be able to resonate with so many whether in person or on TV). It is our sensing of the field of paradox that tickles the funny bones and the spirit of fun.
So what does a sense of humor have to do with True Beauty? Or practicing True Beauty? Humor is one of the greatest teachers. To be the one creating humor or perceiving and receiving the humorous, it delights and oft times enlightens. Seems to me that when we are smiling and laughing we are lifted up; it is a physical response to joy.
I cannot end a discussion of the importance of humor without also addressing its dark side. Humor is powerful, and when wielded through sarcasm, derision and ridicule it can be powerfully harmful. There is definitely a place for parody. British comedy has proven that “making fun of” has a sharp and clever role in showing ourselves to ourselves, being a pointed teacher. But sarcasm can be the lowest form of humor, and the most common and popular in declining civilizations. Gratuitous derision and ridicule too often only serve to polarize and separate, underscoring hostilities, supporting anomie. Adding to the degradation of the human spirit. They have no place in a Practice of Beauty.
In this world of sit-coms, zombies and vampires, I’m finding it harder and harder to find funny stuff on TV, let alone to read. I read the funnies every day. (Sometimes they’re funny.) Some “go-to” reading references that I would recommend for an instant shot of ha-has are: almost anything by Bill Bryson. Rob Brezsny‘s “Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia” is sure to make you smile, if not laugh out loud at least once. Very contrarian to all the doom and gloom propaganda out there. (Brezsny is the guy who writes “Free Will Astrology.”) I liked “Pronoia” because it says (in bold) things like:
“Only YOU can prevent the genocide of the Imagination!“
Now, I find that funny, in a clever sort of wordy way.
To practice cultivating, nurturing and exercising your sense of humor:
1) Notice the paradoxical and/or ironic connections that life serves up. Smile at them; laugh at them. Crack a joke about them. (When I was very small I brought a stray kitten home. When asked his name, I replied “Claude.” I didn’t get it at first when everyone laughed. They heard “Clawed” and thought me a very clever and funny little girl. I didn’t let on it had been unintentional…)
2) Let something unexpected dissolve into a humorous event rather than an inconvenient one.
3) Choose companions who appreciate and share your brand of humor…and like to exercise it!
4) When called for do “The 2-Minute Drill.” This means you must put your mouth into the smile position for 2 minutes straight, without a break. You’ll be surprised how your mood follows your mouth!
5) Endeavor to laugh out loud once a day. If this is proving difficult, try breaking out into song instead. Any song; relevance is irrelevant here.
6) Read funny comics — in the newspaper or elsewhere. Being grown up doesn’t exclude “the funnies.” Even read political cartoons if you have the stomach for it. They often point out paradox and irony. (The trick is to be able to laugh at them).
Humor is an instant connector. Have fun, go practice – enjoy your own brand of the lighter side. Laughter resides in the heart chokra; let there be light!
Odd fact: A good belly laugh is beneficial for the lymphatic system.