Using levity to uplift in unfunny times
“The world is in serious condition largely due to our conditioning to be serious. Seriously.” —Swami Beyondananda
If serious times have got you down, maybe levity can lift you up. Here are four ways that what Swami Beyondananda calls “cosmic comic consciousness” can heal your heart and free your mind:
- Levity helps us see from a higher perspective. Here’s a true story about the transformational power of humor. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, American and Soviet delegates were meeting to discuss possible trade between the two countries. When news of the missile crisis hit, everything stopped. There was tremendous tension in the room. Finally one Soviet delegate suggested they each go around and tell a joke. He volunteered to start.
“What’s the difference between capitalism and communism?”
“In capitalism, man exploits man. In communism, it’s the other way around.”
The room exploded in laughter, and they were able to continue their business. Why? Because the joke simultaneously “busted” both “isms” and celebrated the human heart and spirit we all share.
- Hearty laughter re-heartens the spirit. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote of his time in a Nazi death camp. He and a fellow inmate made a pact. Each day they would find something to laugh about, because as long they could laugh, their spirit could not be imprisoned. To give you an idea of the leverage—or, better word, “loverage”— humor provided in these dark and dire times, one joke that circulated among the inmates involved two Jewish guys who planned to assassinate Hitler. They knew his motorcade would be passing a certain intersection at 11a.m. and they were waiting. But 11a.m. came and went and Hitler never showed up. 11:15, 11:30 and still no Hitler. When he hadn’t come by 11:45, one a assassin turned to the other and said, “Gee, I hope nothing has happened to him.”
Somehow extending that generosity of spirit to their oppressor gave those in the camps heart and hope.
- Humor busts the trance of duality and shows us a “third” way. Ever wonder why jokes come in three’s—a minister, a priest and a rabbi? A minister, a priest and a rabbi are discussing their legacy, what they want the eulogist to say at their funerals. The minister says, “I want them to say he was a family man and a pillar of his community.” The priest said, “I want them to say he was a holy man and a leader of his flock.” The rabbi said, “I want them to say LOOK—I think he’s BREATHING!”
Comedy and laughter can take us above and beyond this or that, and point us in a creative and constructive direction.
- Comedy shines a light on the shadow, and illuminates truth. Isn’t it interesting that in these toxic and divisive times, comedy is probably the most effective delivery system for “news”? That’s because both humor and laughter are “trance-busting.” When we laugh, two things happen. First, since comedy usually involves a novel way of relating two or more otherwise unrelated ideas, it naturally sparks new ways of thinking. Second, laughter causes “breathing” (which we all know is the key to a long life!) … meaning more oxygen to the brain, and more synapses “synapping.” Consider that when we are manipulated into fear, we go into fight or flight and the blood and energy goes from the viscera and the brain to the outer extremities. We become reactive.
Oxygen to the brain makes us more creative. There is often an “aha” in the wake of the “ha-ha” and then an “aaaahhhh” as we leave the duality of the mind for the unity of the heart.
So … here is the bottom line.
In times of stress, challenge, polarization and fear-mongering, levity lifts us to see from a higher view. The playfulness, joy and awakening in the wake of the laughter cheers us and nourishes our spirit. We become more resourceful and more creative. We break the trance of separation and experience the truth of unity. We are better able to deal with the challenges in our own lives, and we become a beacon for others, as we use levity to overcome gravity.