“Laughter is inner jogging.”—Norman Cousins
“If you can sit quietly after difficult news, if in financial downturns you can remain perfectly calm, if you can see your neighbors travel to fantastic places without a twinge of jealousy, if you can happily eat whatever is put on your plate and after a day of running around fall asleep without a drink or a pill, if you can always find contentment just where you are, you are probably a dog.” (Jack Kornfield)
If you can laugh at a good joke, a witty aphorism or comic visual you are probably a human. But are you human enough to generate a wholesome laughter opportunity?
Unlatching the pool gate as I entered I heard a loud splash. A groundhog swam fiercely to the opposite side, scrambled efficiently out over the rim, sloshed quickly across perimeter slate, loped onto the lawn and into bushes. Not only did I laugh heartily then, but also every time this week I’ve regaled friends sparking their laughter with this story. Laughter bubbles for both speaker and listener to share with histrionics critter or pet experiences.
Even without histrionics, Mark Twain got laughs declaring, “Ignorant people think it’s the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain’t so; it’s the sickening grammar they use.” Same for wildlife photo of a bluebird puffed up and grumpy looking by Michael L. Smith. It’s been reproduced so much since its appearance on a National Geographic cover that most folks easily smile at just recalling it.
What’s the difference between an ornithologist and a stutterer? One’s a bird watcher and the other’s a word botcher. Puns can be a source for laughter or at least a groaning smirk. A small-sized fortuneteller was arrested but she was so little she slipped through the bars and escaped. Police bulletin broadcast, “Small medium at large….” An optometrist fell into the lens grinder and made a spectacle of himself.
Travel presents endless laughter opportunities. Decades ago, an elder friend copied verbatim flight emergency instructions on the Rumanian National Airlines, which stated, “Exit according to rule, first leg and then head. Remove high heels and synthetic stockings before evacuation: open the door, take out the recovery line and throw it away.” Another friend staying in a Tokyo hotel read a sign advising, “Is forbidden to steal towels, please. If you are not person to do such is please not to read notice.”
Considering laughter a uniquely human attribute as well as a free health upgrade I’m investing more attention to its cultivation. I possess more than 1,000 books and only a dozen or so are funny. Twenty per cent of my CDs and 40% of my DVDs are funny, reflecting my increasing tendency to enhance my humorous humanity. I’m guessing I engage humor about 3% to 5% of my waking hours, and aspire to triple that. What percentage of your time is spent laughing? How much of your Smartphone or Internet time focuses on wholesome humor?
Swedish Humor and Other Myths was a book title that I once noticed as a possible explanation for my dearth of laughter. We can all laugh at the foibles of our ancestral cultures. In Haikus for Jews David M. Bader offers, “Five thousand years a wandering people—then we found the cabanas.”
We’ve all enjoyed Irish mirthful mischief. “May those who love us, love us. And those that don’t love us may God turn their hearts. And if He doesn’t turn their hearts may He turn their ankles so we’ll know them by their limping.”
Prayer laughter is shared in every venue. Duffers pray, “Make my golf ball lie in green pastures, not in still waters.” “Lord, make my words as sweet as honey, for tomorrow I may have to eat them,” prays a prattler. “Thank God for sleep!” is an insomniac’s prayer. “And when you cannot sleep, still thank Him that you live to lie awake.” (John Oxenham 1861-1941)
Here’s a morning prayer. “Thank you God for standing by me so far this day. With your help, I haven’t been impatient, grumpy, judgmental, or lost my temper. But I’ll be getting out of bed soon, and I’ll really be needing your help even more.”
Help for anger gets a laugh when Mark Twain advises, “When angry count to four. When very angry swear.”
He’s been dead for 105 years and still keeps me laughing into my eighth decade reminding me, “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.” An unknown bard commiserates, “Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed.” I’m old enough to laugh at that one. Another elder asks, “When did my wild oats turn into shredded wheat?”
But you don’t have to be old to laugh at this thought—“Accept that some days you’re the pigeon, and some days you’re the statue.”
Please don’t wait until you’re happy to do some laughing. “We must laugh before we are happy for fear of dying without laughing at all,” declared Jean de La Bruyere (1645-1696). Get laughing down deep and feel happiness for a moment—frequently.