The most wasted of all days is one without laughter – e.e. cummings
It is often said that laughter is the best medicine. True mirth is difficult to hide, for genuine laughter is seldom a silent action even though there are times when outright laughter seems inappropriate. Stifled giggles and lachrymose eyes can alert neighbours to the feelings of humour, joy or even pride that lies under the surface of the most solemn of occasions. Nonetheless, there are more opportunities for laughter in our world than we give ourselves credit for!
Listen to the unbridled laughter of a young child not yet conscious of the social niceties that might keep it in check. “Laughing makes you grow” is the sage wisdom from a four-year-old, as she clutches her stomach to relieve the agony of joy.
Belly laughing; that laughter that bubbles up from below and ripples through one’s body, is the laughter so difficult to control, the laughter that makes one weep – and which makes one feel so much better afterwards!
Good public speakers often inject humour at some point in their presentations, whatever their topic or purpose. Laughing together helps to relax the audience and to bind people together. It creates a bond with the speaker and provides the audience with an opportunity to ‘freshen up’ and be more focused for what is to follow. Indeed, laughter increases both one’s feeling of happiness and intimacy.
That laughter and good humour are important in our lives is evident in early drawings young children make of the sun with a smiling face. The idea of a smiling sun appeals to adults too and is replicated in logos and designs from jewellery to stationery. The warmth of the sun spreads joy – so it must smile – certainly after the many cold days of winter!
Newspapers around the world carry cartoons along with crosswords and grids for Sudoku. They provide light relief, even if the humour is not always of the laugh-out-loud kind. Nonetheless, cartoons serve to provide social commentary in a humorous manner. Political cartoons fall into a humorous genre of their own. We might laugh or harrumph at the situations depicted … yet we think about them, form opinions, or may be spurred on by them to talk about the issues.
We are more likely to associate laughter with a joyful feeling than not.
Listen to the call of Laughing Doves (Streptopelia senegalensis): that happy, burbling cooing sound that punctuates the soporific heat of a summer’s day or warms the cockles of one’s heart during the pale cold of winter is associated with laughter.
Then there is the more sinister cackle associated with the witch covens of old. Hark back to those evil ones in Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble” they chorused whilst concocting their potent brew. The semi-cynical ‘heh heh’ usually signals that one had better be on the lookout!
Is that why the Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) is sometimes referred to as the Laughing Hyena? They make a variety of sounds which include whoops, giggles and groans. As interesting as they are to observe and to photograph from the comfort of a vehicle or the safety of a hide, having endured a night in the open with a pair of these strong-jawed animals creeping ever closer, I can say with conviction that their presence at close quarters was no laughing matter!
Then there are the ubiquitous Hadeda ibises (Bostrychia hagedash) cranking themselves up in the mornings, calling across valleys, communicating during the day and seemingly bidding each other farewell with their familiar haa-haa-haa-de-dah call before the sun sets on another.