Today will probably be a very happy day. This is generally true if I awaken with a laugh. Once again, the auspicious feeling of mirth was how today began. I wish I could remember the dream that triggered it. I suppose it was a real knee slapper. So far, laughter has been a great day starter.
Do you ever ponder the act of laughing? It’s quite unpredictable. What makes me laugh might leave the reader scratching your head in puzzlement. Yet, if I’m laughing, you may soon begin to spontaneously laugh even though you still don’t know why. Laughter is contagious in the same way yawning is.
Isn’t it odd that someone slipping on a banana peel is a cliché for a funny stunt? It’s so common that we immediately recognize the set-up for the visual joke that comes later because we’ve seen it so often. Yet we at least chuckle when the clown trips on the peel. Have you ever seen anybody actually slip on a banana peel in day to day life? That might be an occasion either for laughter or a lawsuit.
A friend’s dog seemed to laugh at me once. The incident triggered my curiosity, so I had to investigate whether or not non-human animals laugh. According to Wikipedia, some of them do, but not always in ways we recognize.
Scientists have observed dog and rat laughter, and as we might expect, many primates enjoy a good laugh. Researchers found out that they can laugh if they’re tickled. It turns out that apes often laugh. Bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans laugh in panting-like vocalizations. Other primates laughs resemble grunts or purring.
There may or may not be scientific evidence of cat laughter, but anecdotal evidence abounds that implies that they do. If house-cats have a sense of humor, it’s probably quite sadistic.
Then there is the type of laughter we have that goes out of control. It starts out innocently enough about some minor absurdity. Then it builds and builds. Soon it’s out of control like nuclear fission. The body is wracked with almost painful laughing that eventually subsides into periodic brief laughing fits. The laughter is sometimes so extreme that it seems like the wind gets knocked out of our lungs. Have you ever experienced laughter so forceful that you feared that you might actually die laughing?
While I admire legendary philosophers from ancient times, there is one point of which I disagree with Epictetus. He wrote, “Do not laugh much, or often, or unrestrainedly.” I suppose that’s why the word “stoic” describes the category of philosophy, as well as the type of person who seems indifferent and unaffected by pain, pleasure, and joy.
Even the dour Friedrich Nietzsche could laugh. He recommended, “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.”
Epictetus could have learned a valuable lesson from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who said, “You must learn to take life less seriously and to laugh.”
I remember one of my old bosses saying something like this once at a staff meeting: Strong people mess up as much as weak folks. The strongest people learn to admit to and laugh at their mistakes but weak people can do neither.
One important thing I’ve learned through experience is when determining if a potential lover or life-partner will be good for me, a healthy sense of humor is a vital priority. It’s important that each person in a partnership can support each other, be proud of each other, allow each other freedom, and cause each other to laugh.