If there is one emotion that humans of all age crave for, then I believe it is laughter. It is an expression of a happy state of mind (generally). It is one of the basic dishes in the menu of emotions. Ask anyone who met their college mates / old friends after a long time and what did they do, the answer would be “We had a good laugh together”.
Browse through You Tube, and you will find plethora of stand-up comedians trying their best to invoke laughter in the audience. Ask any female what are the top qualities she is looking for in her partner, one of the top answers would be “A Good sense of Humour”. (Never heard the same from men though, maybe they already know who would be having the last laugh)
Author E.B. White once said,
“Humor can be dissected as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind”
Contrary to what few like E.B.White have claimed that humour should not be explained I am making an honest attempt to elaborate on this topic.
Let us try to understand what is this emotion all about. Firstly, let me bring clarity on the two terms that are used interchangeably, Humour and laughter.
humour (hāsyam) is one of the nine nava rasas as explained in old scriptures of sanatana dharma
Humour is a communication in which the stimulus produces amusement.
Scientifically humour can be simply defined as a type of stimulation that tends to elicit the laughter reflex. Spontaneous laughter is a motor reflex produced by the coordinated contraction of 15 facial muscles in a stereotyped pattern and accompanied by altered breathing. Electrical stimulation of the main lifting muscle of the upper lip, the zygomatic major, with currents of varying intensity produces facial expressions ranging from the faint smile through the broad grin to the contortions typical of explosive laughter.
For the more civilized (read sophisticated) people the voluntary intent substitutes for, or interferes with, spontaneous reflex activity. People try to control the way they laugh and the intensity of laughter (A Good Trait of Mindful people 😊) but eventually it is a reflex action to the Stimuli induced by Humour.
Laughter is a reflex but unique in that it has no apparent biological purpose. One might call it a luxury reflex. Its only function seems to be to provide relief from tension
There is no clear-cut, predictable response that would tell a lecturer whether he has succeeded in convincing his listeners; but, when he is telling a joke, laughter serves as an experimental test. Humour is the only form of communication in which a stimulus on a high level of complexity produces a stereotyped, predictable response on the physiological reflex level. Thus, the response can be used as an indicator for the presence of the elusive quality that is called humour—as the click of the Geiger counter is used to indicate the presence of radioactivity.
Laughter as a phenomenon has puzzled philosophers since ages, as old as times of Plato. Over a period of time civilizations have found their own contemporaries who introduced various methods to induce the reflex of laughter.
Across the spectrum of humour, from its coarse to its subtle forms, from practical joke to brainteaser, from jibe to irony, from anecdote to epigram, the emotional climate shows a gradual transformation.
Laughter (outcome of humour) is contagious and at the same point addictive. We always crave for company of people where we find laughter sessions. Even in sources of entertainment be it reading, videos or movies comedy is a sought-after Genre.
But humour cannot be thought of as a mutually exclusive communication that would find its way to the stimulus of laughter without any traffic.
If observed carefully, both Heart and Brain have their say in the level of acceptance for certain kind of humour even if technically there is a stimulus. For eg: A kind Heart won’t accept something malicious and Intellectual Brain won’t accept something illogical.
Honestly one can never be content with humour, we always want more. But just like any other habit or act, even humour needs to be nurtured, especially on the path of spiritual evolution. Just as we associate certain attributes like Patience, Compassion, kindness with “evolved” human beings, the type of humour also defines what one’s afflictions are.
I once heard in a discourse from Swamiji on different types of Humours (Cant find the link, please post in comment if you can find it), the best ones are non-malicious and mostly on self or situation one is dealing with (remember the phrase” The Joke is on me”). The worst form of humour is laughing on someone’s misery or making fun of somebody’s weakness or apathy.
Just think about it, a kind and empathetic heart would never accept any kind of laughter on someone else’s pain.
My suggestion is trying to make one’s taste of Humour more Sattvic. Use humour to imbibe and practice emotions that define a spiritual soul.
Raju Pandit once went to meet his Guru who was visiting in nearby town. His wife quipped while he was leaving “Make sure you do not forget to mention about my contribution in your life”.
Raju got a chance at the end of discourse to take blessings and have a quick word with his Guru.
“Gurudev, All the good things in my life, the good Habits, the behavioral change, the charitable acts, are all because of you. I owe all my goodness to you.”
Apart from that, everything, I attribute it to my wife”
While we may not have everything that we wish for, we should always use laughter to put our life into a perspective and count on our blessings. After all it is because of the things we have we can afford to have that laugh.
Raju pandit was relaxing in his balcony on a lazy Sunday evening. He closed his eyes and started to recall the meditation session he had completed by reading the Upanishad’s.
“I am not the body, I am not the soul, I am not the mind…………..
I am not a father, I am not a son, I am not the husband……. These all are mere classifications.”
Slowly recalling all the lines, Raju went into a meditative state
“What is the source of human sorrow,……… what causes us to lose our state of peace,” Raju contemplated and eased into a state of bliss.
“Are you dead or alive” shouted his wife from kitchen.
“Ah! I have an answer to my question” sighed Raju and rushed to the kitchen.
Sometimes we get lost in our cloud of desires and expectations and hope that all things will fall in place perfectly for us to walk the “Path”. Honestly that will never be the case. Use humour as an anchor to “Keep walking” with a smile on face.
Be Here now
Once Raju Pandit went with his wife to studio to get a family photograph clicked. Raju had come late from temple due to which they got delayed to go to studio.
While the photographer was positioning the camera Raju’s wife started ranting “You are always like this, never on time. Don’t know what is it that you do in temple that it takes you so much of time. You do not remember things, you do not help at home in domestic work, look at the cloths you are wearing, can’t distinguish between your shirt and background curtains, I am fed up of your behaviour, you have spoilt my life.”
The photographer interrupted “Smile Please”
Raju’s wife murmured “Now don’t spoil my photograph and give a proper smile”
Such is life, there will be some or the other emotion that will be in a continuous flow in background. But that shouldn’t stop you from adding a comma or full stop with your smile and laughter. There is nothing like being in the current moment. Use humour to come back to the present and laugh away at your thoughts.
I believe “Laughter is the scissors that cuts through the continuous thread of negative emotion”
So next time you find yourself in the middle of a long surge of negativity like anger, jealousy, fear, worry, cut it short with the scissors of LOL or ROFL or maybe even ROFL if you can really do that.
Be Grateful, Be Mindful, Be Here now! Bliss.
मैं ज़िंदगी का साथ निभाता चला गया
हर फ़िक्र को धुएँ में उड़ाता चला गया
हर फ़िक्र को धुएँ में उड़ा………
(Main jindagi ka saath nibhaata chala gaya Har fikr ko dhunen men udaata chala gaya)
P.S.: If you have not realized by now from whom the character “Raju Pandit” is inspired by, then just recall the mantra of sattvic humour “The joke is on me”