The smallest and youngest of babies laugh, starting at 6 weeks. Laughter is literally like getting high on a drug and it makes us feel good, releasing a cavalcade of hormones and chemicals in the brain which make us feel euphoric. Laughter is joyful, free, and spontaneous. It’s in the moment. Sometimes it’s cruel but so is life. I never got deep in to Shakespeare, but I know life is a tragedy, and a comedy, and a history like Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, and All’s Well That Ends Well for example.
Some things shouldn’t be laughed at, so in a sense laughter has a sacred quality. There’s a time and a place for everything. Sometimes it’s good to be serious, maybe most of the time, and then sometimes it’s good to laugh. There is an undeniable joy in every single moment if we stay awake to it. That’s because every moment really is a gift, as corny as it sounds. This is the essence of the good life. Laughter is a way of finding the joy in the moment.
Laughter can build camaraderie, trust, and can break down social barriers. Most of the best things in life are free. Think back on a time when you didn’t have much. You were just about as happy, weren’t you? Laughter is free. If someone can’t laugh at themselves, they have serious problems in my book. We all do things worth being laughed at and after all, even the essential plot of a classic Shakespearean comedy is the noble protagonist with a fatal flaw. Who among us doesn’t have a flaw or two?
Laughter brings out our humanity and commonality. We’re not that much different from each other. Laughter breaks down the ego. Think about this fact for a minute: When you laugh hard, tears come down your face. But when you cry, you get tears down your face as well. Tragedy and comedy are two sides of the same coin- called life. Why not enjoy it?
Perhaps the best description I’ve heard of laughter is this, by the late Comedian Milton Berle- “Laughter is an instant vacation.” It takes us to a moment of high awareness, when we get outside of ourselves, our pettiness, our fears and anxieties, our differences, and the games we play with ourselves and others. Laughter is serious business. We know that most of the things we worry about don’t matter, but we pretend they do, and then laughter steps in.
Some of the people I enjoy being with the most are the people I laugh the most with- the storytellers, the witty, the accents, the colloquialisms, the silliness, the childlike innocence, the impersonators, the ironic, the jokers, the exaggerators, and so on, and the general cast of characters I run in to on a weekly basis. Thank God for people like them. If you look around you, laughter is everywhere, waiting to be found.
It’s easy to laugh at other people’s expense, but even though I’ve done it, it doesn’t feel right does it? Not if it’s cruel and hurts someone anyway. There are plenty of other things to laugh at. Plus, it feels better to build people up than to laugh at them and tear them down. Once, when I was in high school playing football, I got caught impersonating one of my coaches, with all 50 or more players gathered around. He was standing behind me! This was funny, and guess what, he thought it was too. Laughter is laughter because it’s funny, and it’s funny because it’s true.
Like I said, life is a comedy and a tragedy. Maybe that’s why so many comedians go mad, because there’s a fine line between the two. God rest the soul of Chris Farley who made us all laugh. We all know we can’t live forever, not in this world anyway, so why not find the joy of laughter whenever we can. It’s serious business.
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