…. a certain rigidity of body, mind and character, that society would still like to get rid of in order to obtain from its members the greatest possible degree of elasticity and sociability. This rigidity is the comic, and laughter is its corrective.
– from Laughter, by Henri Bergson
What’s funny? Any why?
Humor can be friendly, usually when we include ourselves, or not. It can be silly or piercing. It can be spontaneous or planned.
In either case, when something is funny, it is often because we have expectations of how life is or ideas of how the world should be, and yet life does something else.
It’s funny when something doesn’t meet our expectations of how the world works.
Or when someone is attached to ideas, and the absurdity of it is pointed out.
Pretzel Head was born blind, deaf, dumb, and with no arms or legs. His mind is all that works. That, and he can turn his head into a pretzel. Unfortunately, he uses these powers for evil and very quickly has his head chopped off by Axe Cop after attacking a city in a his giant Psydrozon robot suit.
Since most of what is here is pretty silly anyway, why not share Axe Cop? It is a web-comic where the story is authored by a five year old, and then drawn by his 29-year-old brother. It gave me the best laugh I have had in a long time. If you like the humor of five year old boys, this is something for you.
Growing up in a country where Donald Duck is weekly reading for (just about) all kids, I have a special fondness for the master Duck Man Carl Barks. (Some of his shorter stories can be found here, although his longer ones are more interesting.)
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.
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.