Shift Happens, With Humor

The positive impact that laughter has on our attitude, insight, productivity, and overall well-being is nothing new. Throughout history, clowns, fools and court jesters plied their trade not only to entertain, but to heal people, impart wisdom, and exercise diplomacy, acting as ambassadors to other kingdoms to build goodwill and defuse conflict.

The court jesters pranced around the royal palaces with patented blends of whim and wit. It was their privilege to say whatever they wished. Usually a great ruler was encircled by flatterers, and only from the jester did he ever hear the truth. The jester’s business was to tickle the royal funny bone, divert the king from the tedium of his daily affairs, and offer a slightly skewed yet enlightening perspective on those affairs of the court.

Jesters also assisted his Majesty’s digestion, rubbing the royal tummy the right way with their lively presence at the dining table. “Laughter is one of the most important aids to digestion with which we are acquainted,” said the Prussian professor Hufeland. “The custom in vogue among our ancestors, of inciting laughter by jesters and buffoons, was founded on true medical principles. Cheerful and joyous companions are invaluable at meals; obtain such, if possible, for the nourishment received amid mirth is productive of light and healthy blood.”

Native American tribes have sacred clowns or divine tricksters, sometimes called medicine teachers, who perform zany antics and use reverse psychology to rejuvenate the sick and dispirited ones, teaching wisdom through humor. They’re relentlessly resourceful in teaching lessons that lift their brethren out of chronic seriousness. This can break up old patterns of behavior and restore balance in people.

The trickster’s pranks are not cruel or self-serving; in fact, the people feel honored to be chosen for a trick that conveys valuable spiritual lessons. In their typically eccentric behavior, the trickster seeks not to supply the answers, but to inspire realizations in others.

One very despondent man recounts a revelatory experience with his medicine teacher: “I learned my first lesson in Mexico, when Joaquin, my medicine teacher, wanted me to see how ridiculous my seriousness had become. We spent one whole day gathering dried cow dung and other animal waste, carefully placing them in an old tin bucket. The next day we spent mixing it all together.

After this was completed, I was told to mark a circle in the earth with string and a stick, making sure that the circle was perfectly round. Then Joaquin told me to fill the groove in the soil with the fecal mixture. I was very careful to make a perfect circle and not to let any of the circle be crooked. Joaquin praised my work and how careful I had been during the two-day process. He then told me to enter the circle and sit in the center until I understood the value of the lesson.

I sat there for several hours, thinking that perhaps this was a way to contact the Spirit World. Joaquin took one look at me, and rolled on the ground in side-splitting laughter. He laughed so hard he couldn’t speak! I was spellbound, while still sitting in my circle of poop, serious as ever.

“In between his guffaws, the trickster uttered the words that taught me my lesson. `For the past three days you’ve been examining other people’s crap!’ he screamed. `Now you’ve surrounded yourself with it and you can’t even see how ridiculous you look.’ I started to laugh at myself, and wondered how Joaquin managed to keep a straight face for two days.

It finally came to me that I had spent the previous days worrying about the problems of others. All of these worries, in effect, had left me sitting in a circle of other people’s mental garbage. The lesson hit me hard, and I laughed until I was aching and tears ran down my face. It has taken me many years to master the lesson, and I still get sucked into the drama of others at times. But when I do, Joaquin will come to me and dissolve my seriousness with more trickster antics.”

Are trickster tactics unnecessarily silly and extreme? Hunkering down with a pile of manure may not be your idea of enlightenment, but we all know how difficult it is to overcome bouts of lingering seriousness. I recall a time when I went through a relationship breakup and couldn’t shake the blues. It manifested in the form of a chest cold that lasted for two weeks.

A couple of comical friends invited me out for dinner one night so I reluctantly tagged along. The restaurant was packed and there was a thirty minute wait to get a table, so I sought out the restroom while my friends put us on the waiting list. I returned and sat with my two friends for what seemed like an eternity. I started to go into a snit over the long wait when this announcement came over the speaker system: “Stooges, party of three. Stooges.” My two friends jumped up and yelled, “That’s us!” and proceeded to do a spontaneous Stooges shtick.

People around us were hysterical with laughter. I quickly leaped to my feet and added to the bit by gently tugging on the ears of my friends and steering them into the dining room. My chest cold went away, and the joy of living returned to me for the first time in a long time!

Excerpt from the Amazon best selling book,
“When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!”
by Terry Braverman
© 2012 All Rights Reserved

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