The world will be saved through laughter.
House of Humor. Gabrovo, Bulgaria
We who are about to laugh salute you.
The title of this article is a quote from Reinhold Niebuhr.1 The article is a sequence to "Holy Laughter. The serious humor of Albert Schatz who believes 'A laugh a day keeps insanity away.'"2
Two books that intrigued Albert Schatz with respect to humor are The Individual and His Religion, which points out that humor provides us with a fresh perspective in life,3 and Laughter Helps the Heart and Soul.4 Albert believes humor is an integral part of our joi de vivre, because it contributes to good health. "You can't laugh and cry at the same time," he says, "and you can't laugh and be depressed at the same time." Albert has what he considers a fairly reliable test for a sense of humor: "I say something funny. If you laugh, you have a sense of humor. How much you laugh indicates how much of a sense of humor you have."5
He tells people who don't think he's funny, "Try my humor on for size. If it fits, wear it, and let it help you enjoy life. If it doesn't fit, figure out what you learned by trying it on. Either way, you benefit." When someone told him, "There is a method to your madness and a madness to your method." he replied, "That's your problem, not mine."5
Albert is not satisfied with René Descartes' dictum, "I think, therefore I am." because "I am." means only that "I exist. " For Albert, merely existing is not enough. People have a right to live fully and fully enjoy life. This is essentially what "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" in the Declaration of Independence means to him. But people need good health to enjoy "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Humor helps them attain, regain, and maintain good health.5
Albert therefore goes beyond Descartes when he proclaims "I laugh, therefore I live." and "I live, therefore I laugh." He also says, "A laugh a day keeps insanity away." But, although humor is important, it is also important and sometimes even necessary to cry because crying, too, can contribute to our health."5
The healing value of humor is finding increasing support among therapists. For example, F. Farrelly and J. Brandsma write, "If the client is not laughing during at least part of the provocative therapy encounter, the therapist is not doing provocative therapy and what he is doing may at times turn out to be destructive. Humor plays a central, crucial, key role in provocative therapy; it is encouraged and necessary, not just a tangential adjunct to the 'real work."6
Norman Cousins concluded that laughter was a major factor in his ability to heal himself from what was considered an incurable collagenous disease.7,8 A report in Sweden confirmed Cousins' belief that laughter contributes to healing.9 That report concluded that "A humor therapy program can improve the quality of life for patients with chronic problems. Laughter has an immediate symptom-relieving effect for these patients." Laughter is also a form of exercise10 that is beneficial for the internal organs,11 in the aging process,12 and in counteracting stress.13
Cousins devoted a whole chapter to The Laughter Connection in his book Head First. The Biology of Hope.14 This chapter begins with the following two quotations.
The most acutely suffering animal on earth invented laughter.- Friedrich Nietzsche
There ain't much fun in medicine, but there's a heck of a lot of medicine in fun. - Josh Billings
The chapter ends with a list of books, audio cassettes, and video cassettes that are available to patients in the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Duke University. Cousins says that this collection is, "so far as I know, the most far-reaching of its kind."
*Reprinted from the Journal of Spiritual Bodywork. 1(4):5-6.1995.
1. McWilliams, P., and John-Roger. You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought. A Book for People with Any Life-Threatening Illness - Including Life. p. 458. Prelude Press. Los Angeles, CA. 1989.
2. Brewster, M. Holy laughter. The serious humor of Albert Schatz who believes "A laugh a day keeps insanity away. Spiritual Massage Ministry Newsletter. 1(3):3-4, 1995.
3. Allport, G. The Individual and His Religion. Macmillan. New York. 1950.
4. Leighty, J.M. Laughter Helps the Heart and Soul. The Houston Chronicle. June 9, 1987.3. Carlson, K. We who are about to laugh salute you. Holistic Massage Newsletter. 1(1): 1, 1987.
5. Carlson, K. "We who are about to laugh salute you." (A. Schatz) Holistic Massage Newsletter. 1(1):1. August 2, 1987.
6. Farrelly, F., & Brandsma, J. Provocative Therapy. Meta Publications Cupertino, CA. 1974.)
7. Cousins, N. Anatomy of an illness. New England Journal of Medicine. 295:1458-1463, 1976.8. Cousins, N. Anatomy of an Illness. Reflections on Healing and Regeneration. W.W. Norton & Co. New York. 1979.
8. Ljungdahl, L. Laugh if this is a joke. Journal of the American Medical Association. 261: 558, 1989.
9. Fry, Jr. W.F. In the Health Briefing Section. Insight. May 25, 1987.
10. Walsh, J.J. Laughter and Health. D. Appleton and Company. New York. 1928.
11. Fry, Jr. W. Humor, Physiology, and the Aging Process. pp. 81-98 in: Humor and Aging. edited by L. Nehemow, K.A. McCluskey-Fawcett, and P.M.McGhee. Academic Press. Orlando. 1968.
12. Martin, R.A., and Lefcourt, H.M. Sense of humor as a moderator of the relation between stressors and moods. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 45:1313-1324. 1983.
13. Cousins, N. Head First. The Biology of Hope. E. P. Dutton. New York. 1989.