Laughter in an Insane World
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Let’s be honest: We live in a crazy world with a lot of well-meaning but crazy people. Unless you frequently meditate or go live in the mountains somewhere, it’s difficult to escape the insanity of our modern world.
Whether we care to admit it or not, most of us contribute to the craziness with our political beliefs (and the resulting lengthy Facebook posts), our religious or spiritual beliefs (and again, the resulting lengthy Facebook posts), and the way we generally treat people.
I’ve witnessed too many people on social media claim to be “enlightened” before getting into the kinds of arguments you’d expect from a twelve-year old. I’ve seen people attempt to be a voice of reason on the internet only to be drowned out by a sea of passionate anger from those who’ve long abandoned reason.
Most people would rather fight over their differences than work together to improve a world they claim to care about. If you try to approach them with reason, they’ll drown you out like a toddler throwing a tantrum. Sadly, their tantrum will garner much more attention than your plea for sensibility.
For some reason, we’re more attracted to being outraged (and outrageous) than being sensible. Maintaining a sense of humor allows you to laugh at this craziness instead of letting it make you think humanity is hopeless.
Laugh at the World
It’s easy to be depressed about the state of the world. These days, it’s especially easy to attract hate because of your race, age, beliefs, country of origin, or other similar things about you.
So, what should we do?
We should laugh at the chaos. We should look at our society – our “leaders”, the highly opinionated public they try to “lead”, and most importantly, ourselves – and have a good laugh at it all.
I believe this is one of few genuine ways we can give important issues attention and, as crazy as it sounds, maybe even solve one or two of them. Humor creates a conversation in which everyone can feel welcome by, ironically, having their viewpoint satirized.
With everyone’s viewpoint properly trashed, we can have actual debates in which neither side takes itself too seriously and emotions don’t get in the way. We can be aware of the importance of the issues we discuss and still laugh at them together. In doing so, we might even get somewhere. For once.
Laugh at Yourself
The world isn’t the only thing we should laugh at.
Laughing at your flaws humanizes you and makes them easier to talk about. Most introverts avoid social situations because they worry that if they let their personality show too much, their flaws will become apparent and their “friends” will laugh at them. Most of us want to avoid feeling like nobody likes us.
If we can laugh at our flaws straight out of the gate, we can show those who’d use them as fuel for their hate-fire that they don’t bother us. They’ll see that they can’t get under our skin because we already laugh at ourselves.
We’ll feel more comfortable around people because we’ll no longer try so hard to maintain a false image. We’ll be open about our good and bad qualities, inviting people to accept us for who we are or not.
Laugh Because It Makes You Think
Humor can undoubtedly be used negatively, but most people who joke about controversial topics do it to get people to laugh and think.
Those who can’t lighten up may not see the humor in some controversial topics, but laughter can nonetheless bring awareness and inspire change. To joke about something is not to be unaware of its severity, but to lay a foundation of humor that makes people comfortable talking about it. In this way, we can get the masses to discuss things they prefer to ignore.
How do you think comedians get people to laugh about serious or extreme situations? This doesn’t mean they or their audience fail to realize the extreme nature of what they joke about. To the contrary; they use comedy to generate discussion on topics they know are difficult to discuss.
Would you enjoy it more if I droned on about the government and the endless wars we’re fighting overseas, or if I used humor to make this otherwise unfunny situation approachable? The answer is obvious.
Laugh Because It’s Good for You
I could give plenty of examples of things we should laugh about. Modern-day politics, for example, is either hilarious, terrifying, or both depending on how you choose to see it. Personally, If I couldn’t laugh about it all, I might end up terribly depressed.
It turns out that humor not only creates a discussion and helps you laugh at otherwise serious issues. It’s also good for society and us as individuals.
Here are a few of humor’s benefits, courtesy of HopeSpeak.com.
Laughing and maintaining a sense of humor can:
- Help you become more resistant to disease by rejecting stress hormones and increasing antibodies that fight infection (1)
- Help your muscles relax (1)
- Help you let go of stress and stay positive in negative situations (1)
- Help you through times of sadness and anxiousness (1)
- “Increase energy for your brain and body”, helping you stay focused and be less afraid or overwhelmed by life’s challenges (1)
- Help you make a good first impression and emotionally connect with people (1)
- Help you get through disagreements that cause anger and pain (1)
According to Psychology Today, humor poses physical and psychological benefits such as helping with stress. As Dacher Keltner and others have discovered, it can also help with the grieving process. They found that it was easier for spouses of the deceased to adjust to their loss if they could laugh about it spontaneously. (2)
Laughter’s physical benefits, Psychology Today reports, include helping your lungs, circulation, and muscles (particularly muscles around your belly), as well as helping you get through “pain and physical adversity”. (2)
Laugh Because It’s Good for Your Relationships
According to Psychology Today, it’s unsurprising that people often admire those with a good sense of humor. Your sense of humor or lack thereof could determine whether someone wants to be your friend, go on a date with you, or be in a long-term relationship. (2)
According to “most studies”, Psychology Today reports, people look for humor in those with whom they consider having any kind of relationship. Barb Frederickson and others who’ve studied positivity’s upsides have found that humor can even make you more creative. Joking about awkward interactions and “uncomfortable situations” can also make them easier. (2)
This information shows us that humor not only poses benefits for the mind and body, but your relationships and society overall. If we can laugh, we can be more comfortable around others and start healing aspects of ourselves and the world that are broken.
Laugh at Yourself Some More
Let’s return to what’s perhaps the most difficult thing to laugh about: yourself.
By laughing at yourself, you learn to lighten up and stop taking yourself so seriously.
Spiritual people can look to J.P. Sears as an example of someone unafraid to poke fun at himself and the community he contributes to. He puts some of the most common spiritual clichés on display, giving him a platform to discuss many of the pitfalls of being “spiritual” in the modern world.
Sears pokes fun at those of us who strive to be as “spiritual” as possible by pretending to advocate outlandish viewpoints that make him, as he puts it, “ultra-spiritual”. He uses humor to comment on the downsides of modern spiritual and new age philosophies without trashing us just for being who we are.
In doing so, he helps us hone our philosophy to something insightful yet still self-aware and down to earth.
When watching his videos – particularly his video on cannabis – I feel like I’m given a free pass to laugh at myself and the absurdity of some of the beliefs I’ve subscribed to.
It doesn’t make me want to change who I am over some inherent philosophical pitfalls. Instead, it encourages me to have good laugh at myself and then refine my philosophy into something more reasonable.
It’s nice to have your head in the clouds and I’m all for it (seriously; people should spend more time in that space), but it’s important to be sensible too.
To a reasonable extent, I’m comfortable laughing at myself and the way I live. I couldn’t write about all these different topics every day if I didn’t have a sense of humor about them. I’d be far too serious and preachy.
Laugh Because… Why Not?
We talk a lot about changing the world, but I’d prefer not to live in a changed world if it means nobody can laugh. I think social change should be preceded by much-needed personal change that includes the development of a collective sense of humor. Change is futile until we can all laugh.
So, in concluding this, I want to ask a simple question: why not laugh? Provided we don’t use humor as an excuse for hate, we have every reason to laugh at our world and the people in it. This includes ourselves.
I can laugh at myself for unintentionally playing into some of the common spiritual stereotypes, just as I can laugh at the stereotypical right-winger who’d probably burn all hippie spiritual people at the stake if they could.
I can have fun with the shortcomings of others if I can first laugh at my own. Instead of being hateful for the sheer sake of hate, this purposeful sense of humor can open a dialogue between me and all others who think differently. It shows that I’m not so serious that I can’t be open to other perspectives.
The next time you take yourself or the world too seriously, stop and laugh at this bizarre thing we call life. You’ll feel better, be more open with others, and have authentic conversations with those who think differently. Humor will light up your life, providing mental and emotional freedom for you and all involved.
- “The Importance of Sense of Humor”, HopeSpeak.com, December 16, 2014 – https://www.hopespeak.com/blog/the-importance-of-sense-of-humor/
- Peter McGraw, Ph.D, “The Importance of Humor Research”, Psychology Today, September 14, 2011 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-humor-code/201109/the-importance-humor-research
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