I thought I’d start my stories with some funnies, just to break the ice, but then I got sidetracked into being philosophical about funnies, so you’ll have to wait a bit longer for the laugh out loud moments. I like to laugh, including at myself (it’s that, or miss one of the best jokes on Earth). In my spiritual life, humour is one of my “gods” – it’s an amazing thing that we have life, but to also have things that we can laugh at, so hard that we cry, sometimes… I’m glad we evolved this way, and I also like that we are apparently not the only species on this planet with a sense of humour. I am reminded of David Brin’s “The Uplift Trilogy” – humour was recognised as a distinct phenomena of sentient thought and expression. I read the series probably in the early 90’s, and I still form mental glyphs for “What boys do” and “Mourning for a good joke gone unappreciated”.
I love clowns and YouTube for lots of reasons, including the laughs they deliver (I have started my journey to be a clown), and I like people who make me laugh. I like watching kittens chase laser dots, and listening to children tell stories of how the world works. There are different levels of humour, that appeal to different audiences, but people who allow themselves to become jaded, and no longer able to get pleasure from or appreciate something because it’s common, or they have experienced it before, what do they gain? Is there really so much joy and pleasure in the world that we can afford to disregard and discard the known sources? Or do we become bitter, cold and haughty in our worldliness?
I’m really enjoying modern animated movies that have so much adult level humour. There’s a wicked joy in recognising a joke that goes over someone else’s head. I once saw a juggler busking in Auckland. He was doing a routine where he juggled in the style of various art movements: Cubism (very angular), Impressionism (not juggling, but it looked like he was), Romanticism (sweeping movements with soulful eyes)… Then he put one hand in his pants pocket and continued the juggling with the other: “Lonely Romanticism… It’s OK to laugh – the kids don’t get it… or if they do, that’s not MY fault.”
Wicked and amused are very complimentary feelings, at least for me and people I associate with. I don’t like comedians who get their laughs cheaply by embarrassing members of their audience, but I do like satirists who bring the powerful back to Earth. I intend to do another story on the power of clowns. I like it when everyone comes out feeling amused, but we should also respect the value of bad taste jokes. Us Westerners tell them to break the ice on otherwise hard to discuss topics. See the Darwin Awards or if you haven’t yet played Cards Against Humanity, I highly recommend it. I have seen Germans play the Auschwitz card, and black people play the Black people card (more about that later). I like this definition of Politically Correct thinking: “The idea that one can pick up a piece of sh*t by the clean end”. We have to be able to talk about these things.
This coping mechanism is cultural, not universal. When Michael Jackson died it took about five minutes before people were telling bad taste jokes in the office. Q: “When is it time to go to bed at Neverland?” A: “When the big hand touches the little hand.” My Chinese colleague was appalled. She told me how, when she was a little girl, she went to a family funeral and was excited to see so many of her favourite people. She was running around and laughing, and she was spanked until she cried because it was wrong to show any happiness when someone has died. I’m sorry if, in reading this blog, my sense of humour offends. I do not intend any disrespect.
I think many of us can actually relate a bit to the discomfort of humour found in bad circumstances – it’s not as though these bad taste laughs are guilt free. Laughing in surprise or nervousness can make good people feel terrible. The Germans have a word: “schadenfreude” – pleasure derived (by someone) from another person’s misfortune. How often do we admit to feeling this? Watch Shakespeare comedies or American romantic comedies and almost all the laughs come from people doing horrible things to each other. While I love good slapstick there is a whole entertainment industry based on the published recordings of animals and people accidentally hurting themselves, and I don’t like that, but sometimes it’s hard not to laugh when you see it. It would be comedy gold if it was deliberate and no-one was hurt, and I do appreciate it when someone puts their own pratfall forward to amuse others and as a way of laughing at themselves. I certainly do a lot of that.
Smiling is a well known technique for mood control: when you’re feeling down, deliberately put a half smile on your face. The smile will lift your mood (really), and it will soon be real. Laughing is good for your health – easy to verify on Google. I am going to dedicate a lot of my blog to funny stories, because if you’re serious about loving humanity you must spread the joy, delight and laughs of life, even if some of them are a bit wicked.