The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Using Humor to Create a Reservoir of Joy

I've been reading a book I highly recommend to you, Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Live, by James Martin, SJ. It has a lot of wisdom to pass along amidst some pretty good jokes! I was very interested in the use of humor to create a reserve for joy, sort of a well to dip into when you are distressed and thirsty for a rising sense of joy in your life.

First a good definition of positive, constructive humor: good humor is always charitable to others, kind and never tearing anyone down, building others up, self deprecatory if anyone needs to be laughed about ... which keeps us humble if done well and is never mean-spirited. Good humor always leaves people with their dignity intact and never, ever attacks someone's good name. Malicious humor, this Jesuit priest states quite clearly, is actually sinful. Once unleashed, it can never be recovered, and you as the teller have no control of where it goes in the world or what further harm it does after it has been loosed.

So now we know what it is. How does that help us create a humor reserve for joy? Father Martin suggests creating a collection of happy, humorous memories from life experiences. As one who has just returned from the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, I can tell you that storytellers old and new tap into these happy memories from childhood to create some of their best work ... and then, perhaps, maybe, stretch those memories a bit to make us all laugh more. But, I digress. Think back to the funny stuff that happened at home or in school when you were a kid. If your childhood was particularly fraught with misery and woe, turn to your work life and think of coworkers' pranks and oddball occurrences in the office or at home. Let me pause here first and say how sorry I am if your childhood truly was miserable. I feel for you.

Once you have thought long and hard, and come up with these amusing experiences and amiable antics, make a list of these wonderful memories. Include jokes and stories that make you laugh ... get a few CDs of storytellers' tales to get you giggling, if need be. Seek out only constructive, positive humor, leaving the evil, malicious, sinful humor alone. As the author states, "Look for constructive and positive humor, which you will find, in the long run, to be more rewarding than anti-ethnic or put-down humor.

Return to this list of amusing, happy material often and enjoy savoring those happy times. Then take it a step further and tell your stories, share your experiences, with your friends, so, quoting Father Martin again, "...they will want to share more joy with you, multiplying the laugh for everyone. The triggering of laughter in others and their sharing in your periods of it facilitates the development of a humorous group perspective--the feeling that we can all laugh at ourselves and each other's failings and that we hold amusing experiences in common in this mad world."

In doing this, from list to sharing, you create a reservoir of happy, funny, humorous material that can act as your reservoir of joy. When you're feeling low and joyless, return to your list and find the lighter moments again. Then seek out the company of others you share humor with for support. Who knows, together you may even create new moments of humor to add to the reservoir, to broaden the list some more.

Wishing you joy, humor, and laughter today and always.

For more on joy, see:

Adding a little to my own joy, this is post 1100! 

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