Dr Suess said correctly: “From there to here, and here to there funny things are everywhere”. But do we see the humor and acknowledge it? Do we keep our eyes and hearts open and understand the “dark” side? OR do we shy away from fun and laughter? and feel it has low importance in our day-to- day living?
Think about it.
Whether it is movies or books: the tragedies walk away with glory; the comedies never get their due. Even look at authors…the comedy writers actually have a difficult task on their hands. Thinking of situations and dialogues which will bring out the juxtapositions and ironies of life and people, the element of surprise and suspense, the unexpected happenings : all of which give rise to a chuckle or a smile from the reader or observer: a very difficult task indeed. But Literature and Drama recounts the tragedies as the greatest productions, which get remembered the most!!
Even in corporate lives we are forced to remain staid. No exuberance. Don’t show the joi de vivre. Business is serious stuff. Don’t smile too much….and never, but never laugh aloud. In the corridors of power and upper echelons of management, humor is looked down on as a dilution of the sanctimony of business. It seems like the lofty goals and objectives of the corporate world must be achieved with a serious demeanor. If you have a frown on your face and a “no nonsense” hard nose expression, you will be more respected and your efforts applauded more. Literally you should not giggle or laugh your way to the ‘Finish’ line: as you need to project the sheer dint of effort and seriousness of purpose to commemorate the achievement. Higher the success achieved more seriously must you project the struggle of reaching the goal. As if…if you laugh as you cross the end line, you are undermining the success itself!
Contrast this with the king of comedy Charlie Chaplin pronouncement: “A day without laughter is a day wasted”. On an individual plane, we all understand this truth. We want to be happy and smiling and laughing in our personal and familial lives. We enjoy company of those who make us laugh. We do not want to be around people who mope and crib all the time : they suck out even our energy. And yet we do not value those who make us laugh. We admire the “dark arts” but the proverbial Joker is considered lowest on the totem pole of society.
Are we afraid of the sarcasm side of humor? the loose comment which actually is an insidious cannon aimed at flattening the listener? We all know people who use humor as a defense, a wall to keep others out or to protect their own brittle egos. In such cases humor loses it’s innocence. It uses guile, an artful deception, duplicity to project friendliness but actually hurt and harm the other person. Truly it is not such humor which brings joy and smiles. Such a person is not actually funny. They are just being mean and trying to fool their audience by hiding behind their “joke”! Erma Bombeck noted correctly: ” there is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt”.
In another perspective, Will Rogers reminds us : “Everything is funny as long as it is happening to someone else”. Unfortunately, often we get so immersed and involved in the story and it’s developments, that we fail to retain a sense of objectivity. We invest heavily in our own position; or in the opposition of someone else’s position that it becomes a “do or die” situation. Naturally we cannot see the humor in the situation. We have gone so close to the problem that it’s tentacles have enmeshed us: making us apart of the problem and depriving us of the “outsider” view which would have shown us the ridiculousness of our position and thus enabled us to escape it’s grasp and think of an easy solution. Taking oneself seriously is possibly the biggest dis-service you can do to yourself.
My 35+ years corporate experience convinced me that we do not laugh enough in the office space. Most laughter is contrived: like when the Boss or the Super Boss makes a joke and I have to laugh the loudest to provide evidence of my great sense of humor.And even as I laugh I am looking at the Boss to see if he is seeing that I am laughing at his pathetic asides!! Equality and camaraderie, which are sine qua non for humor to flower, are conspicuous by their absence in corporate boardrooms.
So where does it hurt? In my opinion, humor has great potential and great power. It equalizes social and corporate power distances. It can be the oil and grease which smoothens relationships. It is a door opener: allowing easy entry into conversations and issues. When tempers are running high and positions are taken, humor can change equations and open closed minds. It brings much required levity to unnecessarily serious situations and people. It is a simple and readily available solution applicable in most distraught conditions and with the most difficult people. It has fantabulous stress busting capabilities. It is an sure charmer which endears you to the audience making you the soul of the party. In case any reader wants to understand more benefits of humor in social interactions I would welcome you to read anything by Oscar Wilde and/or PG Wodehouse and feel the calming effect and innate charm of humor in their own hearts.
Life has taught me to be a continuous learner. I never make the same mistake twice. I make it 5 or 6 times: just to be sure!!!
Hoping you learn to laugh at yourself: joker vikas