Tag Archives: Laughter

Laugh Like the Whole World is Watching

Might May 11 mark a new path forward? For the past several years society has seemingly carried the Sisyphean rock, Covid. The date marks the official close of “Emergency Declarations” in the United States. In effect, this is the end of both the COVID-19 national emergency and the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

Emergency, emergency, emergency.

We need not continue to live and learn in such a state. 

And this is something to certainly celebrate.

Immersed in Crumbling Models

The month of May bears witness to other forms of celebration, with commencements across the nation and abroad. Speeches will soon be scribed and just how many center on the power and importance of transition is left to be determined. Few, however, likely will focus on the importance of humor. In a world quickly becoming more conscious of the crumbling models all around us. Political, economic, religious, economic, even educational model! Resiliency will increasingly be more important. A component of such resiliency is humor.

You may ask yourself, how many times did I laugh today? If you are able to take this inventory, whether 3 or even 17 times, then a more apt answer probably is, “not enough!” Carol Whipple published of University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension published how on average, a child laughs 300 times a day while an adult laughs only 17 times a day.  In “Big Think,” a multimedia web portal which “challenges common sense assumptions and gives people permission to think in new ways,” Matt Davis contributed an article titled,  “Why a good sense of humor is an essential life skill.”  Davis indicates how research has shown that humor can improve the physical immune system as well as cardiovascular health.  “Aside from improving your health, laughter can also lead to greater creativity and productivity as well.”  

So, if we know laughing is good for us, then why are we not doing it more?

Probably for the same reasons that few philosophers ever have given laughter much thought. Nigel Warburton summed it up well when he wrote, “Thomas Hobbes and René Descartes, who believed that we laugh because we feel superior; Immanuel Kant and Arthur Schopenhauer who argued that comedy stems from a sense of incongruity…”

Anyone who spends a considerable amount of time in or at schools, probably can attest to the fact that it would not hurt to have a bit more laughter in our classrooms and hallways.

Thriving as Opposed to Surviving

We seem to be enmeshed in seriousness. In the field of education, administrators concentrated on whatever “fires” need putting out. Educators focus on curriculum coverage and lesson plans, and hopefully student well being!  Students often center their attention on achievement and grades. And all too common, parents operate from a narrowly defined notion of what success might look like for their child. That same overplayed recording of, “get into a good college.” Each in effect, seemingly playing the part of pawn. Fixated on the tree before them and not the glorious forest. Or, in a world of Covid, simply surviving.

Yet, we are on the precipices of thriving. It is right within grasp. A ripe fruit ready for the picking. And not only because the “emergencies” are nearly over.

It is refreshing to see how momentum is being gained as we transition away from knowledge and into competency. America Succeeds, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit is committed to improving equity, access, and opportunity in education. To do this, their focus is upon Durable Skills, a combination of how you use what you know along with character skills.  Yet, I am hopeful they may begin to consider the role humor will play in the days to come because nowhere listed in the 36-page Durable Skills report, does humor appear. Ultimately laughter is essential to success but also especially necessary as “function” dissolves the archaic “forms” in which we have been living. Victor Frankl alluded to humor when he wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning (1946), “another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation.”  Author and educator May Kay Morrison asserts to the power of humor, even coining a term she calls, “humergy.” Humergy  as she defines it, is the energy that emerges from joy and optimism of our inner spirit. 

A sense of humor is an essential life skill. Brain research backs the power but also importance of humor. Laughter is surely within each of us, yet simply may require a bit more space and time to express. As May 11 marks the terminus of Covid and the end of a state of emergency, we might just want to challenge ourselves to step forward with even greater joy, lightness, and laughter. 

TRY IT YOURSELF:  Jim Paterson shares these few ideas for how you might attempt to use humor.

Get back to work. A bit of humor gets attention and provides a break, but teachers should have it relate to the work somehow, should keep it brief (even if they let students participate) and have a path back to more serious information and a method to bring their students along.

A simple surprise. Just having on an odd hat or projecting a cartoon at the start of a class can get students energized. A simple surprise is also a way that a teacher who doesn’t think they are funny can easily bring some lightheartedness to the classroom.

Let them at it. Have time when students can tell a joke (with guidance about the humor being appropriate) and you will find that even the most introverted ones might be willing to participate. Give them a chance to write about a funny incident.

Game time. Give students a quiz with the right answers mixed in with outlandish wrong ones. Have a game show where the answers are on topic, but the game is humorous and fun.

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Abandoning Ordinary Pursuits

In a world increasingly topsy turvy by politics, hypothetical iterations of the Internet, climatic dystopianism and more, wisdom and laughter are of critical importance. Now is no time to revert to passivity or to remain idle and uncreative. Nor can we be as amenable school age children tethered to a desk, inside four walls, disempowered so much as to need to ask for permission to even use the restroom. 

We have all at one time or another felt this.  Lived this.  Confined to the recesses of a darkened cave. 

Graciously 2020 and 2021 allowed society to climb out of such a “cave.” Arguably a light, if not “THE” light was seen. However unpopular, and emboldened all the way to his execution, the great philosopher Socrates laid a groundwork for us to question but also “abandon ordinary pursuits.”  Authenticity, balance, and coherence are far finer than lives of compliance. Sam Haselby alludes in “What Type of Citizen Was He? of the profound heroism of Socrates. Courage, curiosity, and civic-mindedness traits similarly in dire need of today.  “Socrates likens his dialogical testing of the opinions of others to the agonising sting of a gadfly: the value of the sting is that it shocks its victim out of the slumberous condition of quotidian existence into a moment of moral clarity.”

The past few years provoked the dawning of this moral clarity. COVID, a sort of gadfly.

Socrates’ student, Plato, left an indelible mark on Western literature and his famous Allegory of the Cave symbolized how human beings may be deceived by appearances. Two worlds, inside and outside the cave. A contrast of that which is real with our interpretation of it.

In some regions of the world, the “rush back to normal,” may have us wondering if a pandemic ever even happened. So too in our schools. As teachers return to delivering curriculum, standardization reigns supreme, and children continue to be herded through lackluster experiences which extinguish innate “flames” and fervors for learning.  Default to antiquated systems, so many crawl back inside caves and into the dark. 

What was Real?

Equity cannot be overlooked, especially with respect to the digital chasm and different levels of access to on-line education.  However, during the pandemic more exposure but also credence was given to “unschooling” and other not so well-known educational philosophies. Time was redefined, as the term “asynchronous” was a buzz overnight. Technology expanded the notion of when and how learning might occur.  Where, or a sense of place, suddenly shrunk as the world moved indoors. Life from beyond a screen became more important as borders were closed and we all were limited to just our immediate communities. In doing so, there was a realization of the important role education plays in connecting young people’s learning to a sense of place.  

Beyond spaces and places, “faces” and the conceptualization but also importance of “synchronous” became a glaring need. Consciousness developed around Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and students, teachers, and parents alike needed time to connect in “real” time. As an online and hybrid educator, “the synchronous” took on a significance similar to what photographers prize as “the golden hour.” Those special moments to engage one to another Outside of these scheduled times, greater balance could be achieved. Learners were empowered to speed up pre-recorded videos and soon found they could learn wherever and whenever. Empowered by default, they might remain in their pajamas all day, or be engrossed by Fermat’s Last Theorem at 11:30 at night.  As they wished.

And now?

From Wisdom to Laughter

“All I claim to know is that laughter is the most reliable gauge of human nature.” This is where we turn to humor and the irony of how the preceding quote is attributed to Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Someone who according to Britannica, “specialized in the analysis of pathological states of mind that lead to insanity, murder, and suicide and in the exploration of the emotions of humiliation, self-destruction, tyrannical domination, and murderous rage.”

For readers who lived through dial-up modems, you may remember when you first saw Baby Cha-Cha-Cha, also known as Dancing Baby. Do you remember? Considered the first meme to go viral on the internet, the rendered animation of a diapered baby performs a cha-cha type dance.  At the time, the second half of the 1990s, the term “meme” remained obscure.  Close to twenty years would pass before I really understood what a meme was. It was Harambe not Oxford Languages that in practical terms helped me understand that a meme was “An image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by internet users.” Or simply an unserious response, created in an attempt to cause laughter. Some may say, as a result of a generational discord where youth are unable to regard major events with the “appropriate weight.” Whichever stance is taken, the motivation is one of humor. A valuable quality or state of mind.

Harambe was named after Rita Marley, widow of Bob Marley, and her song “Harambe” (Working Together for Freedom. The 440lb. 17-year old Western gorilla was shot dead while in captivity. Nearly instantly, thousands of memes were launched.  The power and virality of the internet would once again demonstrate how a collective online psyche can catch like wildfire. In “The Power of Memes,” Allexus writes how “the use of memes is important to our growing society where Meme Culture brings people together as it represents the media around us.” Whether people are “brought together” may be dependent on if the humor is shared. For at first glance, a meme may be deceiving, especially if it is re-mixed and out of context. Laughter is possible, democratization of discourse is certain.

Harambe certainly stirred emotion and became an overnight social justice sensation. Similarly, the Coronavirus, also not a topic inherently humorous, would be the brunt of countless memes. However, it is possible they helped us find our smile, if even under a mask.

In a world engulfed in fear, deceit, and distraction, we have a choice. Hopefully one of reflection, redirection, and focus. Not fooled by appearances or lulled back to sleep. The pig with pretty lipstick is still a pig. And as we identify it as such, might we too laugh a little.

But also move.

Jolted awake by Socrates’ gadfly, a new reality possibly already appears in our rear view mirrors. The past few years  allowing for a recognition of that which must dissolve.  Now, might we utilize the wisdom and vision gained, along with a sense of humor, to create a new narrative.  Pathways toward the light. Out of the caves.

Again.

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