We do not laugh because we are happy,’ we are happy because we laugh, says William James the father of modern psychology.
If you allow yourself to develop naturally, the humour and fun expand your experiences of personal happiness and enrich your health. Health flourishes in a happy environment.
Thus, we should Endeavour to fight ill-health and their evils of life, by levity. Every time we smile – but more so when we laugh – it adds something to our life.
It is true because smiling, much more laughing, removes the cobwebs of morbidity and ushers us to the sunshine of the heart. A smile is something which bursts into laughter. Ill-temper, anger, hostility and aggression Come from our inability to look at the pleasant side of life. If we face the sun, we do not see the shadows!
Jocose imaginations or comicality springs from perceiving the contract between what is and what should be. Even the seemingly sad side of a situation has sunny side to it.
Consider the grim situation in isolation, and you get stuck in grooves of graveness. Humour is nature’s gift to us so that we absorb shocks of life without sufferings their ill- effects. It sponges shocks of everyday life and in a flash either dilutes or neutralize the bitterness inherent in a given situation, William Hazlitt has aptly defined humour as “the describing of the ludicrous as it is in itself.”
A spinster, in her will, specified all the pall-bearers at her funeral should be women. She explained that “No man has ever taken me out. I see no reason why they should do so after my death,” she recorded.
Laughter of children and young girls are, and has been, the most delightful of sounds. A Renuka Shahane smile, which opens the lips and the heart showing the pearls of soul, is for us to delight in. But do we care or notice? Life is a running chain of painful and unavoidable incidents. They are inflicted upon us and we resent them. In fact, it is not the incidents but our reaction to them that causes suffering.
Our reaction is something, which we can control and mould though it needs patience and practice. Newton’s dog, Diamond, jumped on his papers. A candle set them afire reducing his important work to a heap of ashes. Newton simply observed, “Diamond, you do not know what you have done”.
In a similar bad situation Edison is said to have calmly observed, “it burns all my mistakes.” A proper perspective is a necessity. Nietzsche says, “Perhaps I know best why it is a man alone who laughs he alone suffers so deeply that he had to invent laughter.”
There is no other defense against this kind of suffering as effective as treating it with a touch of levity. In bygone days, the professional clown provided the much needed humour. The courts of Rajas and Maharajas employed these professional punsters to provoke humour in the rulers to lighten the burden of statecraft.
George Meredith says that if you “laugh all around a ridiculous person, tumble him, roll him about, deal him a smack, drop a tear on him, own his likeness to you, and yours to your neighbour, spare him as little as a shun, pity as much as you expose, it is the spirit of humour that is moving you”.
Everyone does not have a sense of humour. Some people have it in a greater measure than others. Those who lack this quality are sorry heads of human race. They are the very people who fail to realize that the sun is shining for them, also.
Life scatters opportunities. If we realize their potential, we see a ray of hope. It is only their morbid obsession with their own selves that blurs the mind and plunges them into the mire of misery.
A sense of humour, the ability to perceive the apt conjunction of contrasting ideas, creates humour where seemingly it did not exist. Some convert a difficult situation into an easy one. A boy selling flowers at a road- crossing had a brisk sale while others did not.
A customer asked him the secret of his success. He replied, “When I see an unmarried couple, I address the Youngman with, “Why don’t you buy flowers for your wife. But when I see a married couple, I address the husband, “Sir, why don’t you buy a bunch for your girl friend?”
A sense of humour is a form of objectivity. It comprises in looking upon the world as an entity apart from us: in looking upon life as multi dimensional in thinking that ours is not the last word on people, situations, etc. This enables us to look upon our own failures and foibles with as much amusement as of others: to see the hidden facet of situations, events happenings and people. It brings out the hidden best.
Great men, you may argue, are a class apart from the run-of-the-mill. True. But the man in the street too has the ability to comprehend the ludicrous collision of ideas.
Take the cases of two men in the street. It is raining hard. One is enjoying the freshness of this natural shower, a sense of ablution in the atmosphere, the beauty of clouds and rejoices in being alive. The other sulks and curses the rain. Are you reminded of two men looking out of the window, one sees the mud, the other stars?
Watch people waiting for a bus or a train. Most scowl. They curse themselves, the authorities, for one thing or the other. What the bus or the train arrives, they stampede towards it as if by missing it they will meet with doom. They take life too seriously, are misery-manufacturers. They are messengers of melancholy. They have lost the precious ability to enjoy life.
The attribute of light-heartedness also takes the sting out of criticism when it is thrown at us. The late President Kennedy appointed his younger brother, Robert, as the Attorney General. The appointment got him brickbats. He countered with it, “I see no harm in giving Bobby some experience before he goes out to work for himself.”
A sense of humour is our ability to see, in a flash, the combination of sublime with ridiculous. It is the knowledge of understanding which sends blood bouncing in our veins and the darker ‘humour’ disappears.
Carlyle has said, “It (humour) is a sort of inverse sublimity, exalting as it were into our affections what is below us, while sublimity draws down into affections what is above us.”
The “inverse sublimity” of things and situations “prevents us from being rubbed the wrong way. The deeper is our sense of humour, the deeper our tolerance. We start appreciating others’ view-point which blunts the rough edges of our personality.
The moment we shed the mast of gravity, we see life’s little ironies in their proper perspective. Hurts and humiliations shrink into insignificance.
It is inferiority, which makes us unsure of ourselves. We think that the entire world is arrayed against us. We gather all our energy to ward off the supposed hostility. We think our defenses are being penetrated.
Large-heartedness makes one laugh at one’s own self. When a person realizes that the joke is on him and enjoys it, he is a beneficiary. This self-defense saves the day even for a man of acute sensibilities.
“A beggar went to a rich man’s house and dragged his tale of woe. The rich man listened to him, wiped his tears and said to his secretary, “This man’s story is breaking my heart. Throw him out.”
The American humorist Bob Hope was once complemented for having sixth sense – that of humour. He lambasted himself: “Yes, but I don’t have the other five.”
There is some logic here. The wrong-doing and evil are ridiculed much more effectively, say, by the pun of a comedian (Raj Kapoor in Shree 420) than by erudite essays in encyclopedias. Evil is more effectively destroyed by ridicule than by argument. It is laughed out of people’s minds.
My grandson has a mask. His face is so made that it looks glum and gloomy on one side but when turned, it is all smiles! It depends on how under a given condition you turn your face towards life.
“The world is perpetual caricature of itself,” observes George Santayana. “At best it is the mockery and contradiction of what it is pretending to be. Humour is a prescription of this illusion.”