Laughter is the other side of sorrow. The arts explore this relationship in various forms, perhaps most poignantly and concisely in poetry. An understanding of this relationship forms the basis for healing. Artists are known to explore the dark side of human nature through art, an encounter that yields no assurances or promises. Some experiences yield discoveries that hope, goodness, light and love are attainable. In Galway Kinnell’s poem, Wait, written to dissuade a friend from suicide, he says, “You’re tired. But everyone’s tired. But no one is tired enough.” Such renderings rejuvenate us; tell us to hang in there.
In the old days before language was studded with acronyms and technology a cloud over intimacy, people were moved by spectacle. Truths were profound and the process to determine them, mostly known and practiced by the devoutly religious or the highly educated (i.e., not something arrived at through Googling). In the virtual world, you don’t have to be “Somebody” to access many things simultaneously; conceptually; quickly. The effortless speed of this process is powerful, seductive and fun. We have always pitted our mortality against the fast and furious (i.e., invincibility vs. vulnerability). Wit at a clip is a reflection of intellect. Intellect is fast. Feelings? Not so fast. It takes time to experience them. It takes time to let go.
Physiologically, laughter is a spontaneous release of energy and a momentary letting go of our defenses. So when we take our next breath, we are in that instant vulnerable to the realization we have just experienced. A grain of truth is juxtaposed with how we see ourselves or how we see others. Our unexpected exposure to the truth causes uncertainty and invokes laughter. In this way, humor is an effective tool for teaching, encouraging understanding between people, building relationships - and it is universal. Pop art was a successful international movement that still influences artists today. A Claes Oldenburg sculpture of a giant inverted ice cream cone melting over a department store roof comes to mind. Everybody laughs.