(This poet’s web book on homelessness, released four years ago on our own WordPress platform, has been brilliantly reviewed by both Rebelle Society and Namaste Publications, and is presently creating compassion in 36 world nations.
Written during her own period of homelessness, its chapters are being republished here, one each day for 100 days.)
The Sense of Humor
Wit – the salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out.
having been forced for the past year and a half to interface every day, all day, with the American public
… has noticed in recent years a new and growing general nervousness at the sound of laughter.
Its onset, like many of the negative changes gathering momentum among us, has in its beginnings been insidious slow. Because of this, and of our increasing isolation from one another, many of yours foolie’s readers may not have noticed it rising like a lake of bitumen around their increasingly deactivated funny bones.
For clarity on this issue, therefore, she poses a question. Please take a moment to think about it:
Where, in the reader’s opinion, is a good belly laugh publicly sanctioned any more?
We spend half of our waking hours at work… ‘Nuff said.
Much of our remaining public time
we are encouraged to spend shopping.
Please imagine prolonged and enthusiastic laughter in a shopping venue. If it ever actually occurred, a security guard would be onsite instantly to check out such unusual and inappropriate behavior.
are almost always bored beyond belief. Any opportunity to hassle a marginally deserving individual ~ and, as well, one obviously disenabled for successful protest ~ is almost guaranteed to be acted upon, even when such shocking behaviors as public laughter are not involved.
Well… On the sidewalks, then, out in the open air?
yours foolie can tell you from personal experience that laughter among strangers almost always gets you glances which speak of the advertising-industry generated low self esteem presently rampant in our culture. Astonishingly often, they are pretty sure you are laughing at them.
… Public cafes and restaurants?
Only marginally better.
A short burst of polite merriment conducted ~ and this is essential ~ in concert with every other individual at the table, never alone, is tolerated in these locations ~ but only so long as it does not occur with too great a frequency or intensity…
Where does that leave?Pretty much no place but home, right?
… If you still have one, that is …
‘Kay, readers, let’s have a little honesty, here. When was the last time a belly laugh echoed through your home? Even when listening to the canned laughter which still runs in the background of our prime-time sitcoms, we ourselves do not laugh, but sit like zombies letting the TV laugh for us.
We’re not happy people.
In fact, we’re so uptight
that we’re literally dependent upon ex-lax. Along with five prescription medications ~and billions of dollars of other over the counter stop-gaps.
We need to loosen up.
Really, though, yours foolie thinks, of all the changes we need to make, this one, anyway, ought to be a pretty easy one, right?
A day without laughter is a day wasted… Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain. – Charlie Chaplin
There are only three inbuilt physical functions
which deeply and rhythmically stimulate
the human body at its central core (another systemic necessity which, as we are about to see, is chronically ~ and damagingly ~ neglected among us.
These three are sexual climax, deep weeping, and enthusiastic laughter.
Masters and Johnson estimate that fifty percent of our women have never had a deep, pulsing sexual orgasm. Siri Gian Singh Khalsa, Director of California’s Reichian Institute, puts his professional estimate at a percentage closer to eighty or ninety.
… And how many years has it been since the reader wept convulsively and despairingly?
“Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.”
– Pink Floyd
Stimulating our bodies at their core produces as astonishing a host of medically proven results in the areas of adrenal, circulatory, muscular, nervous and mental health …
… As do ~ just for instance ~ hugs.
When was the last time you got or gave a hug?
Not a brief, shallow, largely symbolic
touching of the other person’s shoulder blades
~ a real, prolonged, treasuring, comforting package of support, enablement and self-esteem?
In case it’s been so long that the reader has forgotten ~ here’s what they look like:
We’re not happy people any more.
Happiness is essential to personal health ~ and it is essential to the maintenance of healthy societal culture as well.
This much has been acknowledged by our great thinkers for a long time
“Comedy, we may say, is society protecting itself – with a smile.”
J. B. Priestley
“A sense of humor,” wrote Hugh Sidey, “is needed armor.”
“Joy in ones heart and some laughter on one’s lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.”
If yours foolie is e-hearing this right
once again it is those currently being castigated as everything from light-minded to insulting
~ the laughers, the jokers, the humorists in our lives ~ who actually have the better grasp of (and, as we are seeing a mountain of evidence to prove, effect upon) brass-tacks, day-to-day reality?…
“Humor is… a sense of intellectual perspective: an awareness that some things are really important, others not; and that the two kinds are most oddly jumbled in everyday affairs.”
– Christopher Morley
In other words:
“This I conceive to be the chemical function of humor: to change the character of our thought.” – Lin Yutang
“Humor can alter any situation and help us cope at the very instant we are laughing.” – Allen Klein
“A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.” – William Arthur Ward
“Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air, and you.”
– Langston Hughes
The thought that a humorous understanding of our world
may be its most accurate as well as productive
sounded a bit strange when we began this page. It’s starting to sound more possible in light of these contributions from our greatest thinkers, isn’t it?
But wait ~ as they say in those ads we love so much ~ there’s more!
Many writers go further ~ they see humor as not only leading to and productive of ~ but as ~ the highest of truths:
“There is more logic in humor than in anything else. Because, you see, humor is truth.” – Victor Borge
Even as ~ oh, the defenders of plodding misery are going to get much angst from this final assertion! ~ the cream of that treasured bastion of naysayers: common sense!
“Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.”
– William James
All those benefits to the humorist.
Benefits to he or she who receives the humor.
And oil, as well, in the wheels of every communication these individual will undertake in good humor:
“In conversation, humor is worth more than wit and easiness more than knowledge.” – George Herbert
In our modern age, of course, even such a wellspring of benefits has become poisoned. Strangers become afraid that nearby laughter must be at their expense for a reason: because ~ so sadly often among us ~ it is.
In cultivating humorous inner perspective and outer exchange
caution must be exercised
against words, inaccurately classified as humor among us, which are actually verbal harpoons, barbed and poisoned to hurt immediately and fester afterward ~ all because our chronic low self-esteem demands the presence of someone even lower to give us a sense of having any value at all…
“Humor brings insight and tolerance. Irony brings a deeper and less friendly understanding.”
– Agnes Repplier
“The satirist shoots to kill while the humorist brings his prey back alive and eventually releases him again for another chance”.
– Peter De Vries
It becomes clear
that humor is indeed an essential part of healthy personal and communal life.
Mark Twain named it “mankind’s greatest blessing.”
We wouldn’t want to neglect our greatest blessing, would we?
“Humor is a serious thing. I like to think of it as one of our greatest earliest natural resources, which must be preserved at all cost.”
According to Edward de Bono, it’s “by far the most significant activity of the human brain.”
But enough of the known humorists
Let’s hear from someone
whom even the majority among us with crippled funny bones can recognize as having committed himself to the serious issues of this life, shall we?…
“If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.” – Gandhi
Serious enough for us yet?
All of these great thinkers seem to agree that:
“If you could choose one characteristic that would get you through life, choose a sense of humor.” – Jennifer Jones
Maybe ~ like parenting, like compassion, like humility ~ humor is an area of life which we have neglected, in favor of homogenous circular motion between work cubicle and home armchair, to our culture’s very significant disservice.
“When humor goes, there goes civilization.” – Erma Bombeck