Although this blog is not particularly funny, except in unintentional ways, I appreciate humor as much as anyone.
And as with good medicine in general, humor seems to work at the level of who I take myself to be, and can perhaps also help me notice or glimpse what I really am.
I notice that humor often helps me find some distance to and release from beliefs, identities and knots. It usually takes something most of us find stressful, some belief and should that is not accordance with what is, and offers some relief from that tension. It may even offer some lasting relief if it helps me see that whole dynamic as universally human and not (only) about me as an individual.
The bumbling behavior of Mr. Bean or Inspector Clouseau trigger my own fear of appearing bumbling in public. It is a behavior that doesn’t fit my desired identity, so tension comes up, and the humor releases this tension. If the humor also helps me realize and get a felt-sense of this dynamic as universal and shared by all of us, it can help me disidentify with the behavior and the shoulds around it, and this can give some lasting release and relief. It may still be there, but it is not taken as so personal anymore.
This is more likely to happen if the humor is heartfelt and coming from a sense of us, of us all being in it together.
The alternative is a more cynical humor, one that is about them rather than us. It can still give me an intellectual insight into certain patterns in others and myself, which is helpful. But it also tends to reinforce my shoulds and fears around it, which deepens a sense of split between us and them, and how I should be and how I (sometimes) am.
As Timothy Winter (Abdal Hakim Murad) puts it:
The road to God is paved with laughter at the self. The road to Hell is paved with laughter at others.
There is of course a lot more to humor.
For instance, a pointed humor is sometimes very helpful in revealing and cutting through self-deception and delusion, whether it happens in myself or ourselves. Other times, a friendly humor is more helpful in dissolving knots. This is not so different from what we discover when we explore the functions of the yang and yin forms of Big Heart.
When I explore it for myself, I find that humor helps me get some distance to beliefs and knots, it helps me disidentify from them and not get so caught up in them. Humor usually takes something most of us find stressful, and offers some relief – maybe even a lasting one if we see the target of the humor as universal, not (only) about me as an individual.
And I also notice two main types of humor, both of which I appreciate in different ways.
One is humor coming from a sense of I and Other, us vs, them, and this one is often flavored with some cynicism or harshness. Monthy Python is maybe a good example here, and Borat, and maybe most of the British humor in general come to think of it.
The other is coming from a sense of us, of what is shared by all of us, of being in the same boat. This one is more heartfelt, and coming more from acceptance of our shared humanity and foibles.
There is more of the first type of humor, which is probably connected with the idea that intelligent humor is slightly cynical, while heartfelt humor is slightly naive and soft-headed, even though intelligent humor can obviously take either of those two forms.