xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: Laughter is the best medicine.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Laughter is the best medicine.

I read the daily newspaper from cover to cover and watch three TV news programmes every evening. I am trying to wean myself of this destructive habit because the news these days is so stressful and depressing. I figure that if I do not watch the nightly news then no news will be good news, because, let’s face it, if something terrible happened anywhere in the world that day, the local TV channels will show it to you and in gory detail.

Writing in The Australian newspaper recently, well known columnist, writer and raconteur, Phillip Adams, wrote, “It’s been hard to laugh, lately. Not with Gaza, MH17, Syria, ISIS, AIDS, Ebola, child molestation, genital mutilation, Libya, the Nigerian abductions, Manus and Christmas Islands and even Rolf Bloody Harris. Laughter languishes. It cannot provide its best medicine.”

 And now, sadly, we can add the death of Robin Williams.

The untimely death of Robin Williams brought sadness to millions. When Buddy Holly was killed Don McLean wrote that it was “The day the music died.” For many, William’s death marks the day that the laughter died.

In our sick and sorry world some would argue that Laughter was killed off some time ago.
Phillip Adams said the whole world is holding its breath, unable to laugh at the untold miseries around us. But, we must not let the laughter die. Laughter is a sign of Hope and we all need Hope. Like a lot of people suffering mental illness, Robin Williams ran out of Hope. Death was the result.

It was Charlie Chaplin who said, “In the end, everything is a gag.” Initially, some things are so very, very sad that we all grieve. However, time passes and before long someone makes a joke about even the most horrific events. And we all laugh. 

On July 25, 2000, Concorde crashed into an hotel shortly after taking off from Charles De Gaulle Airport, killing 109 passengers and crew and four people in the hotel. The world was shocked. A week later I heard a comedian say that the Concorde’s Black Box had revealed the Pilot’s last words were, “There’s a nice hotel. Let’s crash there.” Quite a lot of people laughed. A week was long enough for them to turn a shocking tragedy into a gag.

And that is why we have jokes about such events as the holocaust, Hiroshima and the deaths of people such as John Lennon, John F. Kennedy and even the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Why, the British comedy team, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, even made a movie culminating in that momentous event on Calvary. It concludes with their main character hanging from a cross and singing, “Always look on the bright side.”  People thought it was so hilarious.The film won several awards.

Ah, yes, in the end everything is just a gag. However, the fact is that Laughter really is the best medicine for us all. There is a great deal of medical research which demonstrates that Laughter:
   *Relaxes the whole body and leave our muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes.

·  *Boosts the immune system, decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection fighting antibodies, thus increasing resistance to disease.

·   *Releases endorphins, the body’s natural feel good chemicals that promote a sense of wellbeing and even brings temporary pain relief.

·   *Protects the heart by improving blood vessel function and increasing blood flow, which is great news for your heart and circulation.

Laughter has social as well as physical benefits. It strengthens relationships and attracts us to others. It enhances teamwork and defuses conflict. Let’s face it, we would all rather work with someone who laughs a lot rather than a grumpy puss. Though the dark clouds may gather, there is always a silver lining.

Basically, laughter is our defence mechanism. Everyone laughs when a man slips on a banana skin. Why? We don’t want the man to injure himself but we laugh, basically, because we are glad it happened to him and not to us.

It is the same with the fellow who said, “Last night my wife and I watched three DVDs back to back. Fortunately I was the one facing the telly.”  A completely reasonable statement followed by one that destroys our original perception of what was said. And we laugh because it didn’t happen to us.

My dad was a man who enjoyed a joke and made other people happy to be around him. On the day he came home from hospital after some chest x-rays had caused some concern, I asked how he had got on. “Well, it looks like the Spanish dancer has got me at last.” was his opening comment. Spanish dancer was his rhyming slang for cancer. He used humour to lighten the mood on what was a very sombre day for our family.

When I was in grade three, my teacher, the wonderful Mrs Brown, used to put aphorisms on the board for us to copy during our handwriting lessons. On one occasion I was puzzled when she had us transcribe “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.” I was eight years old and all I knew was that relish was something that you spread on bread and butter. I could not see the connection between wise men and sandwich spread. 

That day, Mrs Brown taught me two very important lessons. Firstly, English words can have more than one meaning and secondly, it is good for your health to enjoy a joke or a laugh and not take things to seriously. I’d like to think I have carried both of those lessons through life.

Milton Berle the first great TV comedian said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”

Bill Cosby, another funny and philosophical man on TV said, “Through humour, you can soften the worst blows that life delivers. Once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.”

Of course, like all good humour, it is in the timing.  Like a lot of people, I have been to funerals where people were sad and mournful. Yet a few hours later, at the wake, we are all laughing and recalling, with great affection, the funny moments we shared with our departed friend. 

There is a time and place for everything.  Charlie Chaplin was right. In time, everything does become a gag. Let us hope, in these days of world wide instant and depressing news, that we can always look on the bright side of life. Laughter is the best medicine. We should indulge in it frequently, every day.         

And, in case you haven’t  enjoyed your laugh today, here’s an old joke from an old teacher with a love of language.

“The thief stole a load of full stops. He’s looking at a very lengthy sentence.”

Go on, laugh. It will do you the world of good and make the world a better place.

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