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end of laughter

The Tragic End of Laughter 


I love to laugh. 

People don’t seem to be laughing much. 

I love to laugh, and I especially like to laugh at myself. 

I can’t be the only one who has noticed that laughter has been sucked out of our world. No one has said “You can’t laugh,” but LOOK AT PEOPLE’S FACES! Fear, not lightness and laughter is evident. At least not evident when you can actually see whole faces.

My favorite song from the movie Mary Poppins is not Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. My favorite song from Mary Poppins starts with Uncle Albert (Ed Wynn) singing:

I love to laugh
Loud and long and clear
I love to laugh
It’s getting worse ev’ry year

If you knew me, you’d probably say “It shouldn’t be hard to laugh at yourself. You are a spring garden shooting up more and more stalks and twigs of your many foibles, those shoots quickly ripening into absolute targets for laughter – a veritable semi-mobile fertile vegetable garden of laughable content.”

I’m good with that, as long as we laugh together. I’m fortunate that I am in private practice and I can laugh if I want to. If you don’t want to laugh, pick another doctor. Be my guest and have a nice day. And, let me say right now that laughing in the current era is in no way meant to marginalize the losses people have been through. Been there done that, but with cancer.

Maybe I’m just sensitive and nit-picky, but it seems like there’s an inverse relationship between trust in the dominant story of COVID and its experts and the ability to laugh – especially the ability to enjoy self-deprecating humor. Regular people seem to have put skepticism and critical thinking regarding the dominant story on the shelf and surrounded and protected that view (or lack of view) with a vicarious lack of humility spawned by their experts, and now reproduced in the believers. 

Fear and isolation provide the mechanism for this perversion. People die from fear and isolation. But, we’ve been told people will live because of fear and isolation. What a perfect recipe for success if you are a cynical government looking for control. The choices given to the public were to die in fear and isolation or displace that fear and isolation a bit with compliance. Be part of society by demonstrating with your behaviors that you agree with the anointed experts and their lack of humility. 

It’s pretty hard to laugh when you’ve been inoculated with fear and isolation. Paralyzing gaslighting was the starting point. But the constant and continuing drumbeat of fear and necessary isolation transcend simple gaslighting. Fear and isolation were beneath the plunger being pushed down hard in the first needle forcibly stabbed into the world’s arms. And, that original fear-and-isolation inoculation of stress provided the opportunity for more tangible inoculations. Denial of natural immunity amplified any justification for, if not providing an outright blessing on many of these outrages. 

Introducing natural immunity often leads into discussing immunity boosters, and the natural immunity booster up for examination is too prudently, maybe judiciously, unserious a bit. Don’t get me wrong. We shouldn’t stop fighting the insanity and evil of COVID-response. But, we might need to employ some real science that also has a psychological warfare edge to it. Stress decreases immune responses. We need laughter. 

I had heard a story decades ago (almost all my stories now start with “a long time ago”) about a man who treated his disease with Marx Brothers movies. That probably was a reference to Norman Cousins, who wrote a New England Journal of Medicine article and then a book on the healing power of laughter and of self. The book you can get. The New England Journal of Medicine paper you have to know someone to get. He laughed, and he did get better. Ten minutes of “genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect” that gave him two hours of pain-free sleep.

The Mayo Clinic recognizes the health benefits of laughter. They cite research on the positive effects of laughter. Stress reduction is a biggie. But also – who knew? – it helps your immune system. Stress negatively impacts your immune system. Laughter probably triggers release of neuropeptides that improve your immune response.

A 2005 article in Scientific American discusses the positive effects of laughing. That paper lists increases in the release of pain suppressing native opiates from the pituitary gland, in the production of immune cells, in antibody levels in blood and saliva, and in natural anti-carcinogenic killer cells. Laughing also decreases cortisol and epinephrine production by the body, both of which are stress responses: cortisol suppresses the immune system and epinephrine increases likelihood of hypertension and heart failure. Spontaneous reproduction of white blood cells and increased immunoglobulin A are produced by laughing, and all of these things help the immune system.

Some of the more recent studies used more current laughter-producing videos than Marx Brothers movies. The poor subjects in these newer studies don’t know what they missed, not having Groucho, Harpo and Chico as immune boosters. If Groucho had known about laughter boosting the immune system, he probably would have said something like, “Our movies make people healthier so they live longer?!? How do we keep Congress from watching? The only hope we have is to outlive those people! Someone make sure the President watches Hitchcock.” 

In many ways, laughter does the opposite for the body that stress does to the body.

But, how do we implement an increase in laughter – for our health’s sake? It’s hard to live inside a Marx Brothers movie. It’s even harder to demand that those gaslighted, fearful, isolated, humility-devoid expert-followers who have no humor watch the Marx Brothers (or please insert your actually funny comedian of choice here).

First, of course, no masks allowed. If you can’t see someone smile, you won’t share a laugh. But, once our faces are naked, do we just start laughing? At anything and everything? If your local asylum has an extra bed, you may end up there for a few nights after random extreme laughing periods. Norman Cousins left the hospital and moved to a motel in part because his laughing was interfering with other patients.

Random laughing probably won’t do it. We face a religion. It’s a church. The Church of Science-Compliance, where arrogance and absolute faith in experts are immutable articles of faith. Amen. Their catechism: Modeling is our way, data has had its day. Amen.

(A fundamental tenet of the Church of Science-Compliance will be left for later: the Church – Amen – has done what Albert Einstein failed to accomplish in his lifetime. Einstein failed looking for the single equation that would explain everything. He overlooked Climate Change. Climate Change explains the ubiquitous bad, the occasional good, hot, cold, rain, drought, active weather, inactive weather, death of some things, life of other things, erosion and dirt deposits, as well as sin and salvation: sin by breathing and moving, salvation, of course, by Compliance. Amen. Climate Change explains everything – everything – perfectly. Note that the doctrine of the Church of Science-Compliance – Amen – does not allow contrary data analyses. Please refer to Church catechism, above.)

A special blessing are those people I see who had COVID-response pegged for what it was either from the beginning or from close to the beginning. Their descriptive language for what we have been through continues to become more – let’s go with, unambiguous. Trading analogies to describe the intelligence levels of political figures can create large outburst guffaw boosts to the immune system.

I run into more and more regular people who have just left the COVID period behind. They don’t currently do masks and don’t demand others comply. They assume life is back to normal; it’s finally over. But, then, they also didn’t lose a lot of money or a business during lockdowns. They do have some level of faith in the vaccines, holding tightly to the belief that “how sick we got would have been worse had we not gotten our vaccines (plural).” These people are slowly getting their humor back to some degree.

Some of these vaccine faith-holders might be the go-along-to-get-along believers. They can laugh, but don’t want to face a real difference of opinion on their actions. It’s a lot easier to just go along and obey the rules imposed from above. 

The true believers; the touchless delivery evangelizing, multi-puncture baptized, face-cloth sanctified, virtue-signal praising members of the Church of Science-Compliance are a different matter. They’ve lost any ability to laugh they may have once had. Following the discipline of the church is a serious matter for them. These are the contorters of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ statement about one person’s rights ending when they interfere with another’s rights, contorting it so that interference now includes exhaling.

Hopefully by reestablishing laughter, a long overdue message of normalcy and rightful non-compliance comes through with minimal alienation of the simple rule-followers. Not necessarily an easy task, but it could be fun to try. Laughing is fun. Imagine how disarming it could be. But, more importantly, it’s healthy for the laugher. The health effects are proven. Laugh for the sake of your immune system and let the chips fall where they may for those who support liberty-menacing rules. 

Certainly some laughers could actually enjoy some of the irritation exhibited by the occasional grudging laughee and even consider such irritation as a side-benefit for being the laugher. Such benefit must be left to the determination of the individual laugher. This writer assumes no liability for specific applications of laughter.

For 3+ years, the goal of government has been to fill people with fear, and at least for a while to isolate them. Masks, besides being virtue signals, are a means to isolate, without really isolating. No one is allowed to laugh since these are way too serious times. Ever hear someone laughing while they wear a mask? (How could you tell if they did laugh?) 

Would belly-laughing with a mask pose a choking hazard?

When you look at the benefits of laughter, it’s hard not to conclude that the last three years has been an attempt to control people (a given) with absolutely no concern about killing people (again, a given), all the while telling the targets of this attempt that “We’re here to help.” How cynical and vicious.

Maybe it’s time to battle cynical and vicious with an almost discarded tool: drive them nuts with your laughter and your resultant strengthened immune system.

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  • Eric Hussey

    President of the Optometric Extension Program Foundation (an educational foundation), Chair of the organizing committee for the International Congress of Behavioral Optometry 2024, Chair of the Northwest Congress of Optometry, all under the umbrella of the Optometric Extension Program Foundation. Member of the American Optometric Association and Optometric Physicians of Washington.

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