There are times when I really feel our society doesn't know how to laugh. Usually the times after I watch the news. So much anger radiates from the top news stories. Sadness, jealousy, hatred, rage... And that was only the local news.
That's one of the problems with watching the news. Newsworthy tends to be serious business. Not that I'm knocking serious-minded folk. There is a time and a place for being serious. But as with all things, you need balance. Laughter is just as important. In fact, I would say that laughter is necessary and severely lacking in our world. Why?
Think about it. We've become an overly-sensitive society. For so many years we were told that certain topics were not politically correct, and so, being sensitive-minded, we stopped laughing and gave disapproving looks at any who did laugh. If there is one thing I know about, it's about sensitivity. I was an extremely sensitive child. There are jokes I consider off-color. I won't laugh at them and I explain to my children why I don't find them funny. But that doesn't mean there is nothing worth laughing about. By worrying over every little joke and wondering if it would be offensive or not, we've created a society that doesn't seem to know what good humour is! The sitcom fell out of favor to "reality" TV. Broadcasters decided this was safer than trying to challenge comedy writers to script something that wouldn't offend anyone. It was much easier to give "ordinary" people 15 minutes of fame and hope for some cheap laughs by throwing these willing victims to the lions.
There was a wonderful episode* about over-sensitivity on the old series Murphy Brown. Murphy had told an off color joke when she thought her microphone was off and ended up being vilified for it. She had to attend a seminar on cultural sensitivity where she tried to defend herself. In a wonderfully written scene, she acknowledges a tall man who has his hand raised to speak, only to be corrected by him. He was "vertically challenged."
I look at laughter as a survival mechanism. Laughter relieves stress and improves my outlook. I suffered from depression through my teen years and I probably also suffered postpartum depression, although it was never diagnosed. All the talking about my problems never helped alleviate it. In my depressed and angry state, it felt great to rant, but I was simply keeping wounds open by rehashing old hurts and angry feelings. What really helped me overcome depression was learning forgiveness (toward others and myself) and how to laugh. I would not say I'm cured. I think I will always struggle against the darkness within me. But now I know that if I am feeling down I need to find ways to pull myself up again. Laughter is my medicine. I retreat with a funny story or movie or make a conscious effort to find the humour in situations. This is how my comic strip came to be.
I honestly believe that our natural world is full of examples of humour. Watching the squirrels chase each other, listening to the laughing call of a woodpecker, even noticing the defiant weed that squeezes its way through the smallest crack in a sidewalk can bring happy feelings to my heart. Laughter brings hope and joy. Joy brings peace. Peace and laughter. Some of you may recognize that. I use it to sign my comments on some of the blogs I read. There are times I've felt uncertain about using it. Not everyone understands what I mean and I do not want to offend (that old sensitivity training!) But it is a wish I have for all of my friends and family. Find the joy in your lives. Peace and Laughter!
*Murphy Brown: season 6, episode 4 "Political Correctness"