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The Joy of Laughter April 28, 2006

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Family, Fun, Humor, Love, Parenting/Children, Religion.
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You might think the title of this post is redundant, but my experience has been that there is laughter, and there is LAUGHTER. The laughter I’m speaking of is more than a chuckle, or even a belly laugh. I’m talking about laughter from the soul. Today, I was thinking of starting to podcast in addition to (or instead of) blogging, and this subject came to mind. (I think it deserves a bit of exploration, regardless of the content delivery mechanism.)

Stimulating Your Funny Bone
Recently, I found the following quote from John Callahan:

Laughter and orgasm are great bedfellows.

At first blush, this seems to be a peculiar phrase. Depending on the timing of the laughter, for example, they could be extremely poor bedfellows. Can you imagine a more depressing experience than your ecstacy causing someone else amusement?

Even worse, what if the other person (presuming that someone else is involved, and you’re not simply laughing at yourself in this situation, which is something that Freud should have researched more thoroughly) is laughing at something else, like an episode of Seinfeld, or the Bazooka Joe wrapper they found in the back seat? (This sounds a bit like a variation of the old saw about the difference between a prostitute, a mistress, and a wife. The prostitute says “Aren’t you finished yet?”; the mistress says “Are you finished already?”; and the wife says “I think the ceiling needs painting.”)

Note: I’m sure that some people will read this and may be horrified that a Christian (supposedly), Deacon (according to rumor and ordination), and Youth Bible Study teacher (by way of not saying “NO!” when asked) would discuss sex at all, much less in this context. These individuals might do well to read Song of Solomon.

On the other hand, if you Google “orgasm laughter,” you’ll be astounded at the number of hits that suggest some sort of correlation. (I’ll save you the trouble/embarrassment by revealing that most of the hits for that search draw parallels between the endorphin releases involved.) I think there is a very interesting correlation here, and it suggests that both experiences affect us in a profound way.

The Circle of Trust
The movie “Meet the Parents,” saw quite a bit of mileage from exploring the nature of trust relationships with in-laws and family. As the third of four children (all of whom are married), I’ve seen a variety of in-law relationships as well as relationships with siblings and my extended family.

One of the notable characteristics of strong families is their tendency to laugh together. Whether it’s around the dinner table, on a camping trip, or a 17-hour drive to Texas (not that I would have any personal experience with this), strong families seem to find themselves laughing together quite often. Unlike the sitcom-depicted laughter that ridicules each other, this kind of laughter is a by-product of shared misery or experience. About the only time that laughing at someone in the family is acceptable, is when that person is also the head-of-household, and then, the jokes should spring from the children, and not from the spouse.

As an example, both of my sons have any number of opportunities to laugh at my foibles. Whether it’s my mispronunciation of “Ola” at a Mexican restaraunt (I’ve been caught pronouncing it “OOOOlaa,” with overly dramatic emphasis, and “Allah,” perhaps presuming that our waiter has converted to Islam), or any number of dorky things that escape my lips, both of the boys will catch such an error, and bring it up regularly. They do this, not out of disrespect, but because it gives them a mechanism for making their Dad real and vulnerable. This is healthy, so I don’t just tolerate it, I encourage it.

“You Know How to Make a Circle… Don’t You?”
My advice is to make that circle of friends and family as tight as possible. Trying to shoehorn too many people into your “inner circle” dilutes the intimacy that you feel with the others in that circle. Does that mean you shouldn’t have lots of friends? Of course not! However, you have to ask “How many ‘best friends’ can I possibly have?” It’s emotionally draining to bare your soul to one person, or allow for intimate emotional contact with another person. (Scott Peck calls this “cross the ego boundary.”)

Obviously, some people can experience emotional intimacy (and I’m not necessarily talking about romantic emotional intimacy) with more than one person, but as draining as it can be to be truly intimate with one, it’s risky to think that you can really experience the tight emotional intimacy that yields personal growth (instead of dependency) with very many people. Of course, it’s rare to find this kind of connection with even one person, so the odds are probably against any one person being able to experience this kind of connection more than once or twice in their lifetime, much less with more than one person simultaneously.

Rhetorical question of the day: How big is your circle, and who’s in it?

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