Does anybody still remember Red Skelton, Jack Benny or Bob Hope?
Sure, we do and we who do should never forget. These people made us laugh and forget our troubles, maybe just for a little while. Often, that was enough to make Hell bearable as in World War II when these gentlemen entertained our troops, many times within ear shot of the front lines.
This ingestion of humor, hope and back-home memories lifted spirits from death, destruction and virtual hopelessness. It restored the soul.
Today, we have lost this precious gift of innocent laughter and sentimentality, appreciation of the hearth and home and community nurturing. We have grown too jaded with the modern world. We just can’t let our friends see us have virtually uncontrolled belly laughs watching The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy or Skelton’s Gertrude and Heathcliff. No, their opinion of us matters too much…
The science tells us we were made to laugh…at others, at ourselves or at just plain silly things we do. It lifts spirits from the humdrum. It makes the blood flow better, the heart pound just a little more, and clears the pipes as we breathe more deeply. The brain rewards us with pleasure endorphins and a giddy feeling.
So, it also goes with singing….no, not listening to the radio or I-pods, etc. “Singing”, just plain singing for the fun of it …in the shower or while riding a tractor cutting hay. Why? It releases endorphins and helps restore vital memories. Researcher now tell us that memories, once recalled, are actually rewritten every time we recall them. They even say those memories are altered slightly each time this happens. Singing, it turns out, is the last vestiges of one’s self that are left for Alzheimer’s patients.
We need humor. Clean, “Knock, Knock” jokes, riddles, rhymes, limericks and silliness. We need it because it can forestall the onset of illness, relieve stress and melancholy when serious medical conditions attack and we need it for the preservation of our very souls. It might even be how God deals with the extreme disappointment in his children’s behaviors. “We make plans and God Laughs”, might just be more true than we know.
Now, how do we apply this lesson in life?
Find something everyday for which to be grateful. Then, make sure you examine your life for the silly things we do and learn to laugh at ourselves.
Next, look for recorded humor. One day I stumbled onto a lady who owned an 1897 Edison Player which used cylinders of early plastic-like material for recordings. She played one of a 1901 humorist telling jokes to a studio audience. I had never heard the jokes before and they were actually funny 114 years later! (Silly…but very funny!) We played 12 of these joke edition cylinders and laughed for over an hour. I had to wind up the machine’s spring motor after each play.
Today, even today, I smile inside at the thought of that day.
Humor plays a unique role in our species as we are the only creature that can laugh. It requires the complex concepts of self, irony, sympathy for others, disconnection from reality and disconnection from time and space. We have to be able to put ourselves in the “shoes” of others, apply cultural mores of our communities, know the limits of acceptable behavior and appreciate the talents of the story teller.
With this in mind, it is no wonder humor is good for all peoples of this world, yet…not all humor is understood everywhere; for precisely the reasons stated above. However, scientifically speaking, the good qualities of humor are universal!
I very well remember an elderly gentleman in my community who, try as he might, could never tell a joke to its completion…yet everybody essentially got it and laughed every time. We felt good and he thought the next time he’d do better…he never did. He knew he was appreciated regardless.
I genuinely believe that “evil” does not like humor in its purest form; clean, funny and uplifting. Perhaps, this is why it is now out of vogue for people to tell real belly bouncing jokes and situation humor. We almost have to cower and quake in out boots each day with fear of something…perhaps of tomorrow, just to seem as normal as everyone else. Case in point: a teacher showed a Laurel and Hardy comedy clip examining the 1930’s. She wanted to test if humor would modify attitudes about our modern life.
After the clip, she asked each 5th grader what they wanted to be in 20 years. One young fellow showed her clearly the depth of modern society’s effects, “To be alive…this planet is dying.”
Again, I go back to my childhood and my answer every time I was asked such a question, “An astronaut!” I believed in tomorrow and I could go home each day at 3:30 o’clock and watch Bugs Bunny and Popeye. I laughed and I dreamed.
We cannot ever go home. I know that, too. Times change; I know that, too. But, we can laugh… We Must Laugh and we must always remember.
It’s good for our bellies, or dispositions and our souls.
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