"Does Humor Belong In...?" (Ode to Frank Zappa)
Laughter has this incredible power to expose 'lightness' (as opposed to gravity) in any given situation. It also exposes 'lightness' (as in God, the Self), too. I remember the first time I experienced this first hand: A close friend of mine died while we were in our sophomore year of art school. A bunch of friends and I took a lengthy subway ride uptown to his funeral. About 10 of us situated ourselves in one subway car--sitting next to and across from each other. I don't think any of us had a dry eye. Not knowing what else to do, most of us were staring aimlessly at the (dirty) floor. About a half hour into the trip, I took a deep breath, which caused my head to lift, whereupon I caught site of a doctor's advertisement. The doctor was advertising break-through treatment for anal warts. No joke. It was just the most absurd thing I ever expected to encounter on my way to a funeral. As I read the ad, I knitted my eyebrows and tried to bite-back a smile. I looked down and tried to hide my face (you're not supposed to be laughing on the way to a funeral!). When I gazed up to see if anyone had seen my display of sacrilege, I noticed that my acquaintance sitting across from me was laughing, too. He had seen me look up and become amused by the advertisement and peered up to see what was so funny. Pretty soon, all of us were laughing, and it was the BEST feeling in the world. I mean, our friend--our dear friend--had just died, and yet we were reminded by this ridiculous ad that it's okay to laugh. It's good to laugh. It's a release, and it's also a tool to get us back to our innate Joy; the love within our hearts.
As adults, we know that there is a time and place for laughter: I'm not suggesting that ANY of us were laughing during the funeral--actually, I don't think any of us laughed more than a minute or two. Laughter doesn't negate the hurt, it just connects us to a place OUTSIDE the hurt, reminding us that the 'hurt' is an emotion (albeit a strong one, especially when a love one dies).
Looking at the concept behind Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, we know that laughter doesn't belong in every situation because it negates the seriousness of the issue at hand. However, by the same token, the POWER of laughter is exposed. Laughter is extremely powerful. When used in a vulgar and offensive way, it has the power to diminish others--which is the type of laughter I believe Plato dismisses. It also has this intense power to uplift our spirits, and that's the type of laughter I'm focusing on in this post. The question I pose today is, does laughter belong in spirituality? How could it not?
A sense of humor conditions the health of your being, as well as informing your spirits. In other words, you could be in the worst mood or in pain, just having yourself a good 'ole depression ridden pity party, and then someone could say or do something so comically absurd that you are thrown out of your heavy funk and lifted into the lightness of your true Self: that innate Bliss and Joy. Once again, you recognize that the gravity of your current situation can be put aside for a moment (or maybe was just a figment of your mind, depending on the circumstances) and realize that the best, most productive place to be is connected to the heart. Humor has the ability to take us there.
So laugh. Give yourself permission to laugh and have fun. Ask yourself this: would you rather be around someone who's wallowing around in a pity party or around someone who's facing the trials and tribulations of their lives in stride, and realizing that they have a choice. You can choose to be surrounded by darkness or light. I prefer the light. And as I sit here recovering from my surgery, I appreciate it when my friends and family make me aware of a downward spiral mood swing (and of course I have them: I'm human) because I know the awareness of my attitude is the first step to changing it. Being aware lets me know if there is some inner work I need to do, or if I am just in a 'funk'.
What does Frank Zappa have to do with all of this? Frank Zappa's music was pretty much the soundtrack of my twenties. I loved his music more than his lyrics, but I understood that his lyrics were just meant to be absurd. He juxtaposed the absurdity of life in his lyrics with the life-affirming power of his music in such a way that things began to make sense to me. We can take 'life' (i.e. the gift of being given life) seriously, and not take life too seriously. There has to be a balance. And it's my belief and experience that you will find that balance when you allow humor into your life.
Every great spiritual teacher I've ever seen, heard, or read about has an incredibly innate sense of loving humor. They're on to something...
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