What a classmate did with laughter, when we were around
age 15, has always stayed with me. Although the majority
of insults we perceive were never intended to be
insults, sometimes they actually are intended as
insults. When another classmate said something to this
classmate that probably was intended as an insult, she
treated it as good-natured fun and laughed about it.
This caused even the one who made the insult to laugh
along with everyone else. It completely disarmed the
insult. What a lesson in psychology! Laughter is indeed
If you go to the Universal Theosophy page "On Laughter"
there is an accordian with quotes within it. Give
it a try. One of the quotes is from Sara Davidson
the contemporary author and screen writer:
"The ability to laugh at life is right at the top, with
love and communication, in the hierarchy of our needs.
Humour has much to do with pain; it exaggerates
the anxieties and absurdities we feel, so that we
gain distance and through laughter, relief."
Laughter can help us gain some critical distance from
our personality, which is a work in progress.
I often see certain kinds of laughter as a kind of
release-valve; it can keep us from building up too much
inner pressure, or from "over heating", etc.. But I also
question if this is always valuable. When I observe
comedians using comedy and laughter to broach difficult
subjects with people (like, say, racism or similar
issues), I wonder to myself: is providing a release
really what the soul needs, or does it merely "kick the
can down the road" and leave the issue undealt with?
Does laughing at something taboo, or something we know
to have unethical aspects, because we can see the
ridiculousness underlying it, actually help humanity
progress past those issues?
A good example might be political satirists; they get us
to laugh at political issues, which may or may not be
helpful. The issue being laughed at might have very real
effects on people, and while it may feel nice to release
ourselves through laughter, are we merely releasing
ourselves from our conscience?
I don't have the answers to these questions, but it
seems to me that if we need a release valve for
something, it means there is pressure building up, and
releasing the pressure doesn't necessarily address the
reason why the pressure is building up in the first
Of course, as Peter says, laughter isn't always this
way: it's not always out of a need for release.
Sometimes its an expression of true joy. Sometimes its
an expression of something wicked.
There are many reasons for laughter; sometimes people
use it to lighten a tense situation like the story about
Gandhi. Sometime people us it to put
down and insult others. In general
laughter demands a detached attitude towards a
situation which allows one to see the comical ironies in
life. In the case of highly developed individuals,
laughter is a down flow of spiritual energies
expressing its joyfulness.
Can you recount an incident, either private or public,
where laughter defused some conflict and helped to draw
example: A group of reporters gathered in front of
the Buckingham Palace to interview M.K. Gandhi prior to
his meeting royalty. The British reporters found
Gandhi a rather odd chap, very short, bald, extremely
skinny, voice like a bird, and dressed with only sandals
and dhoti draped about his waist and shoulder in the
cold London air. There was an obvious cultural
divide preceding this important meeting with the King.
One reporter shouted out, "Mr. Gandhi, aren't you a tad
under dressed for the occasion?" "Gandhi quipped,
"I should be fine, the King is wearing more than enough
for both of us." Gandhi had won them over with his sense
I think that humor must be something very important to
Humor cuts through theheavinessof
egoic life. It's gives us temporary relief, or
release, from the bonds of ego. A minor vacation
of the mind. There's a temporary suspension of looking
at life so very seriously, and that is fun stuff.
I suppose the DL or others easily find themselves in
that light state of being - not taking their ego so very
seriously. I believe I've read somewhere, where
H.P.Blavatsky was asked 'what is the most important
thing to keep in mind, if one chooses to be an
occultist?' Her answer - 'to have a good sense of
humor'. Supposedly, when asked what was the second
most important thing, her reply was 'to have a good
sense of humor'. I'd have to confirm that.. :)
Lincoln often visited wounded soldiers in Washington
area hospitals. In addition to inquiring about their
health he often entertained the patients with his
funny stories. He had just left one such facility when a
visitor to the same hospital heard wounded soldiers
laughing and talking about the President. The soldiers
seemed in such good spirits that the visitor was
curious, and he approached the bedside of one of the
"You must be very slightly wounded," he said to open the
"Yes," the soldier replied, "Very slightly. I have only
lost one leg, and I'd be glad to lose the other, if I
could laugh as hard at some more of 'Old Abe's'
Laughter without a tinge of philosophy is but a sneeze
of humor. Genuine humor is replete with wisdom.
- quoted inMark
Twain and I, Opie Read
Humor is the good natured side of a truth.
- quoted inMark
Twain and I, Opie Read
So you see, the quality of humor is not a personal or a
national monopoly. It's as free as salvation, and, I am
afraid, far more widely distributed. But it has its
value, I think. The hard and sordid things of life are
too hard and too sordid and too cruel for us to know and
touch them year after year without some mitigating
influence, some kindly veil to draw over them, from time
to time, to blur the craggy outlines, and make the
thorns less sharp and the cruelties less malignant.
- "A Humorist's Confession,"The
New York Times, November 26, 1905
What is it that strikes a spark of humor from a man? It
is the effort to throw off, to fight back the burden of
grief that is laid on each one of us. In youth we don't
feel it, but as we grow to manhood we find the burden on
our shoulders. Humor? It is nature's effort to harmonize
conditions. The further the pendulum swings out over woe
the further it is bound to swing back over mirth.
- Interview inNew
York World Sunday Magazine, November 26, 1905
To me, laughter helps you let go, however fleeting it might be. If
just for those few moments your sides hurt and your eyes are
watering, all else doesn't matter. There are no words or limitations
to it, it's a universal sound!
This is somewhat a late response to this, although when I tried to
reply the Ning had down time, it was resting. :)
In my view, a lot of times we look back on things or situations
(especially dark ones), kind of remembering them, and laugh at
either ourselves through that situation, or that situation itself.
And almost grasping the humor of 'in hindsight.' Even the darkest
things have light, its very hard for us to see it though.
The story about the man who had a son, strong and healthy, and
people said how wonderful, the man said maybe, maybe not. Then the
son broke his leg and the people said how unlucky - the man said
maybe, maybe not . Then marauding armies took every healthy young
man in the village and they left this man's son because he had
broken his leg, and the people said, How lucky you were, the man
said maybe, maybe not.... and so on
...you all probably know this story better than I have relayed it,
and I guess the truth of it is that good things follow bad things
follow good things in cycles, as night follows day, if we could
really see this and know our eternal cyclic nature, then we are just
in a film, sort of, that ends well and starts again also on a
different experience. So we may as well enjoy the variety!