Art & Aesthetics Art Blog
It feels good to laugh but laughter is contagious and addictive. Humor should be treated like a controlled substance. After all, it is the leading cause of laughter - real laughter. I'm talking about spontaneous, involuntary spasms of genuine mirth. Artificially induced chortling needn't apply.
Laughter is caused by the sudden and favorable resolution of an anxiety. Humor is art's ugly sister whom we exhort instead of exalt, but some art - like Yue Minjun's toothy self-portraits or even ancient hieroglyphics of people with cat or bird heads - can make me laugh. Music is more apt to make me cry.
Laughter is an effect, not a cause. It is a reaction to, and a symptom of humor. We yawn, we sneeze, we laugh. Laughing is a physical paroxysm that is good for the heart due to stress relief. So the chucklish endorphin-rush is indeed a tonic to many mental and physical maladies but the quality of humor that uncorks it varies as widely as Bordeaux to Boone's Farm, or in artspeak - da Vinci to Dilbert.
Some people laugh only to signal their superiority in a social pecking order. I just let these connivers twist in their own wind. Others laugh to convince themselves that they are having fun. This too is fake laughter and, like canned laughter, leaves a bad taste in my ears. Genuine laughter has a trenchant musical quality like Aristophane's Frogs versus, say, Kermit.
Humor is where it finds you. Be happy when it does, but don't try to summons it at will. It cheapens the effect. Maybe we should all just learn to relax: Meditate, do math, or paint a mustache on Mona. Can you touch your nose with your tongue? Pleasure has more manifestations than just laughter. One can chill without the venting action of laughter. If your disposition is good, humor will find you like those cute little munchkins in Francois Boucher's "Putti with Venus." If you're really funny you may even get lucky like Toulouse-Lautrec. Laughter has a charitable effect on people.
Humor can be an art form so don't compromise it by cackling at every irony, pun, and bodily function. A sense of satisfaction will soon supersede the honk-fest of social laughter. Never laugh at your own jokes and there's no need for bloggers to write "lol" so knock it off (ha!). Your wit is an indication of creativity and intelligence whereas unbridled laughter at anything and everything can dim one's wit. As Don Quixote said, "Nothing is as foolish as the excessive laughter over a slight occasion." Then again, he jousted with windmills.
Beware: Humor is usually based on someone's misfortune or shortcoming so your laughter is sure to offend someone. Of course, that may be your intent. Humor is a quick fix of poetic justice like David slaying Goliath. (By the way, have you seen the hands on Michelangelo's sculpture of David? Those mitts are huge!) At other times, it is just the ego gratification of solving a pun or riddle, i.e. "getting it." But if your ego, urges, or vanity feeds a laughter addiction, then the underlying anxieties may grow to be more serious than can be laughed off. Or not.
Laughter is a good thing but it's best when it sneaks up on you. It's that highly coveted kind of hilarity that makes your face hurt and beer shoot out of your nose. So go ahead, let a smile be your umbrella - but plan on getting wet every now and then. Meanwhile, laugh responsibly.