The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.” Mark Twain said that.
The much-loved radio comedian Fred Allen warned: “It is bad to suppress laughter. It goes back down and spreads to your hips.”
Oklahoma’s Will Rogers said, “We are all here for a spell. Get all the good laughs you can.”
Josh Billings, the pen name of a well-known 19th century humorist, had this advice: “When you do laugh, open your mouth wide enough for the noise to get out without squealing, throw your head back as though you were going to be shaved, hold on to your false hair with both hands and then laugh till your soul gets thoroughly rested.”
A study at Loma Linda University’s School of Medicine confirmed that Twain, Allen, Rogers and Billings knew what they were talking about.
The study found that laughing works as well as meditation — and is easier and quicker.
“The kind of real laughter associated with genuine joy and mirth sets off brain wave patterns similar to those that happen to experienced meditators using their mindfulness skills,” the L.A. Times reported. Haven’t you noticed how much better you feel when you’re with people who laugh? You forget all about the aches and pains and worries you have when you’re home alone.
“Humor,” the Loma Linda researcher said, “is certainly within reach of us all. In the interest of our health,” he said, “we should dose ourselves regularly.” He said that he was serious about laughter. “It’s medicine. We need to tune into it and reap the reward.”
I’ve never known anyone who claimed to not like to laugh. I have known folks — sourpusses, pessimists, we tend to label them — who I suspected were suspicious of laughers. But the folks we love to be around, head toward them like a starving person to an all-you-can-eat buffet — are the ones laughing out loud and we can’t wait to get in their circle and laugh too. “What’s so funny?” we ask.
“In this world, a good time to laugh is any time you can,” journalist Linda Ellerbee said. “I delight in being around my three sons because they always make me laugh.” (So do I. I delight in being around my three sons because they always make me laugh.) Good friends do that too. And laughter helps us make more friends. Danish comedian Victor Borge noticed that. “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”
Here’s another, sadder use of laughter. I have always been puzzled when people who have lost everything in a disaster — a flood, tornado, fire — and it seems that those disasters are happening more and more frequently — and have a microphone thrust in their face by an aggressive reporter who asks them how they feel, what they’re going to do and the victim gives a little laugh.
But a couple of the many quotes gave a clue. “Laughter is poison to fear,” is one. And another comedian, Red Skelton, said, “No matter what your heartache may be, laughing helps you forget it for a few seconds.”
One more quote to end on, attributed to several people, “Of all days, the day on which one has not laughed is the one most surely wasted.”
Mary McClure lives in Lawton and writes a weekly column for The Lawton Constitution.