Last week I attended two webinars one about Project Artemis by NASA Scientist and author of book ‘Art of taking it Easy’: Two completely unrelated topics. On one side you have people who intend to conquer the final frontier. On the other side, you have people who strive to win another frontier by using Humor to take it easy and come out a winner out of Stressful situation. But people who do try to conquer external frontiers are heroes of society while people who have tried to take it easy and spread laughter are ignored. But then do they care? No, they take it easy.
You have Nobel prizes, Forbes lists, Business awards, Padma awards, Khel-Ratnas, Olympic medals, Oscars, Grammys, and many awards acknowledging every achievement of every trade. But there is no way society acknowledges the role played by people who have helped to relieve stress in daily lives.
Maybe the best actor in a comic role or laughter champion winner is all a comedian can achieve. Apart from John Steinbeck who received it in 1962 for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humor and keen social perception, no Humorist has ever received Nobel Prize for Literature. Even for Steinbeck, it is more for combination and not humor. Other winners have as examples have won it for their ‘condensed, translucent images which give us fresh access to reality” Or for ‘concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicting the landscape of the dispossessed.
Even one of my favorite Marathi author P L Deshpande has not won Jnanpeeth Award as he depicted the everyday life of people he has used humor as a tool to point of idiosyncrasies, hypocrisy, complications of common lives.
Americans are derided for working themselves to the bone all week just so they can lay around in their pajamas on weekends, watching other people live their lives on social media/TV. Even in India, people work their days out commuting to be able to save money which they feel they can spend to buy their happiness through dining, vacations, shopping, etc. Ultimately it’s all about happiness, so why not take every moment easy, resort to humor and be happy.
Now that we are in a stressful situation during the pandemic, what has helped us: Jokes, Memes and other humorous forwards which help us laugh on plight we face? The author of taking it easy has suggested a way out of crisis to focus on the positives around and ease the situation around. To do that we need to assess the threats, accept what we cannot control, stay positive. In fact, humor is a natural stress-management tool. Coping with and minimizing stress is what humor is for. Laughter relieves anxiety, lowers stress hormones, and helps us to calm down. I can’t tell you how to find humor in your situation, but as much as we can, we need to laugh and just take it easy.
The next question is how to create humor during stress. There are of three ways to explain simplistically. The first way as Aristotle says is a ‘play’ method. Just like kids play after studying for long, adults play with words and thoughts to create humor. The second way, Freud says, allows the expression of thoughts that society usually suppresses or forbade thus creating sarcasm and relief of suppressed emotions. A third way is “incongruence”. The contradiction between two different things creates a neutral view of the reality around us and helps us view stressful things from a different angle. One of my favorite authors PG Wodehouse used sarcasm as a tool against the might of Germans in his radio broadcast though that was misconstrued by everyone. What is the difference between Wodehouse and Shakespeare as Wodehouse himself says:
“I suppose the fundamental distinction between Shakespeare and myself is one of treatment. We get our effects differently. Take the familiar farcical situation of someone who suddenly discovers that something unpleasant is standing behind them.
Here is how Shakespeare handles it in “The Winter’s Tale,” Act 3, Scene 3:
ANTIGONUS: Farewell! A lullaby too rough. I never saw the heavens so dim by day. A savage clamor!
Well, may I get aboard! This is the chase: I am gone forever.
And then comes literature’s most famous stage direction, “Exit pursued by a bear.” All well and good, but here’s the way I would handle it:
BERTIE: Touch of indigestion, Jeeves?
JEEVES: No, Sir.
BERTIE: Then why is your tummy rumbling?
JEEVES: Pardon me, Sir, the noise to which you allude does not emanate from my interior but from that of that animal that has just joined us.
BERTIE: Animal? What animal?
JEEVES: A bear, Sir. If you will turn your head, you will observe that a bear is standing in your immediate rear inspecting you in a somewhat menacing manner.
BERTIE : I pivoted the loaf. The honest fellow was perfectly correct. It was a bear. And not a small bear, either. One of the large economy size. “Advise, Jeeves,” I yipped. “What do I do for the best?”
JEEVES: I fancy it might be judicious if you were to make an exit, Sir.
BERTIE: No sooner s. than d. I streaked for the horizon, closely followed across country by the dumb chum. And that is how your grandfather clipped six seconds off Roger Bannister’s mile.
Who can say which method is superior?” The same calamity is expressed differently. What is the better way of facing it?
While nothing to undermine the achievements as monumental like the Mars Mission or Man on the Moon, the resilience and importance of humor amidst a crisis is also monumental. Sense of Humor remains the most underrated quality of human beings.
You may remember the words of George Bernard Shaw when you try to laugh your way out of the shadow of sorrow. Life does not cease to be funny when someone dies, any more than it ceases to be serious when someone laughs
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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