Laughter, Touchstones, and Critical Masses

Written August 2003

Last edited August 16, 2003


After deciding I wanted a touchstone for laughter, I thought a bit more on the idea of touchstones. After deciding something seemed wrong about the idea a touchstone for laughter, reminded myself that I have always said that just because everybody does something, doesn't mean its right.


Then I thought more about laughing, and it seems that even if somebody laughs a lot, they aren't laughing most of the time. There is the expression "on the edge of laughter" and some people might be like this a lot. So it seems that even if there is a regular background of merriness or jolliness, that outright laughing doesn't happen until some threshold is reached.


Probably it is a critical mass that is formed, and then laughing spontaneously happens at that point like spontaneous combustion. So what I really need, instead of a touchstone, is to be living in such a way that frequently this critical mass is reached, so that laughter is often in my life even if there isn’t any magic laugh button.


We now bump into our inability to really describe what laughing is, what it means, how it works, and why you laughed instead of crying. There has been a fair amount of interest in this question, and investigation into it, without conclusive results. It is some kind of release and some kind of protection from emotional and spiritual injury from the dark side. Trying to pin laughter down more than this just causes floundering.


There are lots of cases of critical masses supporting spontaneous reactions that science struggles to adequately explain. They can explain the components of the setting where the spontaneous reaction is likely to happen, but frequently fumble with exactly why it happens, and other times doesn't happen. This is true for chemistry, physics, biology, psychology, sociology, and probably other areas as well.


In his witches series, Terry Pratchett works a lot with the idea of two different realities and modes of interaction with improving the current state of affairs. With one you work with what is there, and with the other you overlay what is there with whatever you want. The senior witch, Granny Weatherwax creates a gray zone because her ability to work with almost insubstantial traces of what is already there. However she still works only with what is already there. I tend to this view, and tend to believe that frequently problems happen when you just make things go how you want irrespective of what is at hand.


A touchstone is just another way of making something happen that you want "I want this, so I will touch that touchstone, and then it is supposed to happen", and maybe it isn't all that useful or appropriate for it to happen at that moment. If you are a hair's breadth away from laughter, you don't really need the touchstone, and if you are a long ways away, you need a lot more than the touchstone.


If this is how laughter works, it would be a great idea to focus on bringing into our lives whatever is needed to bring us closer to laughter. I am especially interested in the kind of laughter referred to in this old saying “Some people learn through pain and suffering, others through laughter and joy”.


Below are the ingredients of the critical mass that supports the spontaneous wholesome laughter that you learn from.


Reserves of emotional energy – For the laughter to be genuine and appropriate, it must bubble up out of the mix of the existing situation. Pushing and pulling comes from the conscious mind, and the whole point is that the conscious mind still has more to learn, so if it’s driving the laughter, you loose the potential for the organic laughter of learning. Without reserves of emotional energy a person can't be relaxed and easy, can't be a fertile ground for easy bubbling laughter, and once the laughter happens, won't have the energy for the processing that is a part of learning. With reserves of emotional energy, laughter can bubble up anytime it is appropriate, and the laughers can immediately process the underlying lesson before it fades away.


Nimble lightness – There is a playfulness that is fun about the laughter of learning, and heavy immobility can't participate with this. A person must have enough limberness, control, and energy so they can quickly jump around with a light responsive touch. If you don't feel nimble and light yet, you have more work to do building more limberness, control, and energy before you can participate with this laughter.


Perspective – The core of the humor and the learning is gained when you step outside the situation and moment, and suddenly see something new or different. Perspective isn't possible when there is only one position, one view, or one reality. The more a person acknowledges multiple views, and practices putting themselves into different positions so they can experience these views, the more easily they can step into them, and the more likely they will experience the laughter of learning. The largest and most useful step is into different realities.


Reverence – Laughing doesn't work well when you laugh down at somebody. You can laugh with somebody, at life, at situations, or at things, but not at a person. Reverence will help keep your emotional positioning at the same level as others, and help avoid a shift so you are looking down at others. When you are looking down at somebody, it is all to easy to be laughing at them instead of with them. This would hurt you as well as them, and the pain of being hurt tends to block learning.


Compassion – The warmth of compassion will help ensure you stay open to the message coming through the awareness of why you are laughing. This message is the information that can be used for learning, but unless you are open to it, learning can't happen. The warmth also makes it more likely that the laughter will be enjoyable for all within hearing.


Wholeness of Being – To be its most effective and balanced, the laughter must come from the center of your whole being. If the laughter isn’t coming from the center of your being, it will be unbalanced, and off track. The more compartmentalized and less congruent your being is, the less effective the laughter will be, and the more likely it is that somehow the laughter itself will be pulling you off track from learning, healing, and growth.


A good way to double-check if the laughter is on track is to ask yourself if it feels wholesome. This is very subjective, but it is also based on the most important criteria, the effect of the laughter on the laugher. If it doesn't feel wholesome, then something from this list of ingredients is missing or insufficient.


Many sources say that laughter is healing, and laughing people get well more often and sooner. If all these ingredients must be present before healthy laughter can take place, then after the critical mass of these ingredients is reached that supports laughter, of course all kinds of healing would take place, or have already happened.


So laughter isn't a cause, it is a very visible affect of things that are poorly understood, and very difficult to explain, but very valuable. This is why the presence of wholesome laughter is such a good sign.


We don't need to explain or understand the mechanisms of laughter; we just need a map of how to get there.


There is lots of great stuff on how to add to our lives each of these ingredients of the critical mass that supports laughter. So now we have everything we need to fill our lives with laughter.


We have the map, the list of ingredients, and instructions for how to add the missing ingredients to our lives, but we don't need to understand it; we just need to do it by following the instructions.


This is why laughing started coming back to me as I adjusted the mix inside myself by adding the missing ingredients.


This is one of those simple but difficult things.

"Do I really have to do these things all of the time?"

"Yes you do, if you want to frequently experience wholesome laughter, and receive all of the benefits of frequent wholesome laughter.”


May your day be filled with clarity, grace, joy, and laughter,




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