Sunday, September 23, 2007

Laughing out loud, and in front of others

My friend, Ken, and I share the same reverence for sarcasm. I envy Ken because he doesn't only revere it, he has a wit quick enough to actually use it effectively in the moment. I am one of those people who walks away from a situation and a moment later thinks of some perfect retort, only after the time to use it has passed. It's very frustrating.
Ken's work situation is less than ideal. He is the highest performer on his team, and yet is grossly underpaid for his talents and productivity. His CEO recently made a remark that she didn't know if everyone could get raises this year because they make too many color copies. Ken couldn't contain himself. He began laughing out loud, in front of the crowd. And the CEO was completely disarmed, and soon everyone in the room was laughing.

The same day that Ken was recounting this story to me, I read a quote about laughter by Bob Hope. “I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.” And this started me thinking about how underutilized laughter is. The relief it provides. The truth it reveals (a la the color copies). The changes it can set in motion.

I'm not sure why laughter isn't used as a tool more often. Why do we often resort to arguing during a conflict. Can laughter be wielded as expertly and with as great an impact? Is there humor to be found in even the gravest situation. I'm not at all suggesting that our nation approach its foreign relations by making world leaders laugh. To be certain there is a place and time for laughter. I'm just wondering if that place exists more often than we allow it to.

If re-invention and transformation is what we seek, can we allow laughter to do some of the heavy lifting as Bob Hope suggested? Can laughter, especially at unexpected times, be the catalyst for imagining the world around us in a way that we could not access otherwise? There are more pathways to enlightenment that we realize.

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