I am beginning by asking you to laugh…. or at any rate to go through the movements and sounds of a hearty laugh before you read any further. Note the effect that this stimulated laughter has on your mind and body. Does it give you a sense of well – being? Take particular notice of the relaxing effect of the stomach and your face, and especially on the little muscles round the eyes. It may also have made the set of your lips less grim.
Now that we have done what we can to
prepare ourselves for consideration of this strange phenomenon we call
laughter, we ask ourselves: why do we contort our faces and make this strange
noise when we are amused? And what good is it? Above all, how can we make use
What is laughter? The English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes said:
“Sudden glory is the passion which maketh those grimaces called laughter”. As
Rabelais says: “Laughter is the quality
peculiar to man. Other animals can hunt, store food, communicate with
each other, build dwellings, make love,
show affection to mate and offspring, fight to defend their home… but only
man can laugh!”
Sign Of Sanity...
When a man laughs he shows that he
has a sense of proportion: what makes us laugh is the perception of some
incongruity, of something
misproportioned or grotesque. It
is a sign of our sanity, and also of our solidarity. Laughter needs too be
shared. It takes at least two to enjoy a joke:
the teller and the audience.
We must develop the ability to laugh.
An important reason for this is that laughter is health – giving. As Mathew
Green says: “Laugh and be well!” Laughter makes us ‘feel good’ and this feeling
is in itself a great part of good health. Above all, laughter relaxes: Many of us are willing to go to
great lengths, even do tedious exercises, in order to attain this state of
relaxation, that a moment of our “sudden glory” can give us. Laughter lifts from
the mind its burdens.
Laughter is a wonderful breaker of
social ice. Speakers often begin a speech with a joke because it ensures
attention and unites separate
individuals present into a single audience.
Strangers can be brought together by a joke. Introductions become superfluous.
They begin to talk to each other; they are friends. Laughter, like tears, comes
easily to a small child. As he grows older, he learns to control his impulses.
Self – control is a necessary thing if
we are to live in a civilised society, but man often carries self – control to excess. The ‘stiff upper
lip’ represses expressions of weakness, but at the same time effectively blocks
the free expression of joy. Just try to laugh, keeping your lips compressed.
See The Funny Side...
In such a condition we are ready to
react naturally and pleasurably to the
stimulus of the ridiculous. Let us look
for, and welcome such moments. The French epigrammatist, Chamfort, points out:
“The most wasted of all days is that on which one has not laughed”.
I have deliberately quoted a number
of interesting sayings about laughter, from great writers, and I would suggest
it may help you to copy out any of these that appeal to you, and carry it for
reference in your wallet or handbag. They may stand you in good stead on a
We started this article with an
“artificial” laugh. May I suggest that we start each day with one, as soon as
we wake up.