Laughter is a tool to harm or to heal, you pick

Laughter is a tool; and like any tool, it can be used to build up beautifully, or to tear down destructively, depending on the motives of the applier. There is an old saying that "Man is the only animal that laughs and kills for pleasure." So with that sobering recollection, it seems wise to evaluate this thing called "laughter" which is loosed upon the world of people.

Laughing is relational, such as "laughing at", "laughing with" and "laughing for."

Laughing-at is basically a little assaultive, causing separation and provides ego sense of superiority by tearing down that which is laughed-at, thus raising the laugher up above the assaulted.

Laughing-with provides a special way of uniting cheerfully with other people; children often do this instinctively. It provides a sense of togetherness, acceptance, and of being OK with the group.

And laughing-for provides psychological and physiological benefits by the processes of doing laughing for the healing it brings to one's own well being. The physiological processes of laughter amazingly stimulate the body-mind to relieve stress, produce endorphins for comfort, and activate the immune system, better well being all around. And for free, too; but oneself has to do it to gain its benefits. It is a do-it kind of thing to make it work.

As I grew up, the comedian Bob Hope was my hero. He brought laughter into my life, about the only time I laughed. The wit he displayed as he told jokes which often "poked fun at" himself, provided a way of being that felt nice to me. A few others came along too, such as Jerry Lewis; all were bright times in my otherwise struggle of unknowingly-Asperger's life.

In High School I shifted toward escape into science, philosophy, and science fiction adventures; and gradually the contact and attention with laughter drifted away. Pity, as laughter could have helped me through the even tougher times that were coming up for me.

The few jokes my wife of a dozen years in the 1960's got etched into my mind and after she went on to greater adventures, I found I was living out her jokes as the butt of her jokes now being personalized. Amazing how powerful her ridiculing laughing jokes were on my life even decades after she was gone.

I learned about deliberate laughter for health in the early 1980's in a sermon by Dr. Robert Scott in San Jose, but my feeble efforts to pass it on to my then-girlfriend's rather tough teenagers was just met with cold stares; and so the usage quickly was lost. The turnaround for wholesome usage of laughter in my life was when I happened to attend an introductory workshop given by Dr Kataria, on Laughter Yoga, in Pasadena one evening. The experience was a struggle, as all new social experiences are to one who copes with Asperger's Syndrome; but the overall effect seemed desirable enough that I then joined the Pasadena Laughter Yoga Club, meeting Friday evenings for an hour of group Laughter Yoga instruction and practice with others.

The Laughter Yoga Club experience made amazing changes in the way I related to other people, although as the days went past between Friday evening meetings, I faded back to more like I was before; but some social relational benefits lingered on.

The Pasadena Laughter Yoga Club was led by Sebastien Gendry, another fortuitious happening. Maybe Saint Bob Hope is watching out for me.... Sebastien took note of my Asperger's social problem, as well as my computer skills, so after I had to move away due to excessive housing costs in the Los Angeles area, he stayed in touch via email and eventually made good his suggestion that I contribute to his Laughter Yoga website he was planning back then.

Now I do a small role on the website, moderating one of the forum sections, which gives me a sense of purpose while located out in the almost-affordable desert boonies beyond access to the refined experiences of the Natural History Museum research work in marine biology that was my other fascinating activity back then. This internet-accessed job requires me to look over the internet's findings where "laughter" is mentioned, and provides reminders of the many ways laughter is experienced by various kinds of people. Most of them still do the "laugh-at" kind of laughter.

Anyway, I can still remember the process of "laughing-with" others for the laughing-for well-being benefits of every one of us. Nobody or no thing the butt of any jokes, either, just pure healthy stuff for everybody. Really different from the far more frequent derisive form of laughter so prevalent elsewhere. Echoes of that experience still inspire me to sometimes do the motions for Laughter Yoga exercises here in my lonely old house, although with only reflection of observing parakeet's appreciation, it is a bit of struggle to reconstitute the laughing-for laughing-with experience. I feel sure my parakeet would do the clapping of hands patty-cake-like with me per Laughter Yoga protocol, if she had hands instead of wings to do that, as she chirps and hops around excitedly when I do the Laughter Yoga motions and sounds in front of her open cage door. Well, sure, my antics are probably only a little more interesting to watch than the blank side of the refrigerator that is her normal only thing to watch during the day.

Jim Cline

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