Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.
The other day I was thinking about the experiences that brought me to a place where I wanted to create marketing materials for acupuncturists that displayed humor. I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of people who could laugh at anything. I went to Pacific Lutheran University and roomed with a pre-seminary major. She and our wonderful campus minister could laugh at religion. “Sin boldly,” was often heard from her.
She was comfortable with her religion. There were times when something struck her as funny and she laughed. I learned that it was okay to laugh at the sacred.
After graduation I spent time working at a veterinary clinic. It was hard sometimes to work there. One of the vets also used humor. The sadder the situation, the more he joked. I remember one holiday party when the restaurant cleared around us and we were asked that if we came back next year we should ask for a private room. Not only had we offended patrons with our frank over the dinner talk about bodily functions, but with the laughter and jokes that accompanied the worst of the worst.
I learned to laugh at life and death.
As an acupuncturist I often find that practitioners are very serious about their subject. It is medicine. It should be treated. There is a defense against people not taking the medicine seriously, so instead of laughing when appropriate no one wants to laugh. The sad thing is, from an energetic level, laughter is about the heart. When you can’t laugh, you can easily dissolve into tears.
Laughter can move that energy of shock and horror that attacks the heart. I see laughter as transforming the horrors of the veterinary clinic into something that manageable emotionally. For those who don’t know the full story, the laughter around them reminds them of joy and uplifts them in a way tears and stunned faces would never do.
Why do so many people in hard jobs laugh instead of cry? Because, as Vonnegut says, laughter requires less cleaning up afterwards. It’s also transformative in a way that tears may not be. There are times when tears are appropriate. I know that in the vet clinic it was often hard to switch to appropriate tears because laughter was such a part of the defense of protecting the heart. However, when you could move between the appropriate transformation of horror through laughter and the appropriate tears to a horror, then the energy flowed beautifully.
Laughter plays a beautiful role in life. Everything can be laughed at and played with. Let’s not ever forget that.