Fun Factor in the Equation of Happiness
On a Mission to Convert Drama into Fun
It was many years ago that my intuitive inner guide set me up for a challenge to cultivate the ability to produce happiness at will, independent of favorable circumstances and events. Then some time later I dropped my chemical crutches as well -- cigarettes, coffee, and alcohol, as it had became increasingly obvious that I was using them as a tool for an "out of thin air" happiness.
In the years to come, my stomach and lungs were to serve my healthy needs only, not to take care of my moods. Add to it my sudden realization about the "therapeutic" role of my fridge, which always had some balsam for those moments of boredom or emotional upheavals.
In the more recent time I upgraded my resolve, and after obviously losing the last trace of mercy I also quit all sugar and wheat. Now, some months later, I am happy to report that I have not turned into a miserable jerk salivating at the sights of those forbidden foods and drinks while constantly questioning my resolve.
However, this article is not about the heroics of my personal self-discipline, except for one detail upon which I would like to build the whole theme -- my initial intuitive drive to develop an attitude of seeing fun side of life, despite all events which may not give an inspiration for fun.
While my self-discipline may be taken as my chasing some rainbows of self-advancement, it's really about a simple little shift in attitude to start noticing something new in everything that life is throwing at us -- this factor of fun.
Cocktail of Trauma and Laughter
You know, there are times when I am seriously questioning whether it was for those many hundreds of "smart books" on human nature that I have read over decades, or was it for those many stand up comedians, sitcoms, and funny movies -- that provided for me some effective eye-openers about people and life.
What I found particularly educational was the fact that even those really heart-wrenching and tragic events in life got their humorous interpretation. That's why I always liked that "dark humor" which makes fun of things where our knee-jerk reactions are always calling for an upset of a sort.
Decades ago during my getting rid of some traces of my own neurotic emotionalism originating from a pretty turbulent childhood, I even invented for myself a little something to trick my subconscious mind out of it. Namely, I recorded my own belly laughter on the same soundtrack with my "dark material", including as many self-downing remarks as I could think of.
Then I listened to it for a while. I figured, since the brain tends to associate all input, always searching for a possible connection, it may give a funny character to those self-defeating remarks and memories, while recognizing my own laughter.
Just as I expected, that mixture somehow made all that dark material feel silly, setting me free from it. Well, it was yet another in the line of valuable proofs how it is not carved in stone that some experiences, past or present "have to" carry a charge of miserable emoting. Indeed, anything can always be seen another way, and my cultivated out-of-box thinking has it as its basic premise.
Can Lousy Emotions Feel as "Appropriate"?
There are so many useful life truisms that are all the time right in front of our nose, and yet we may spend the whole lifetime immersed into an intimate reality suggested by the behaviors and attitudes of everyone else. When you really think of it, why do we take for granted the "appropriateness" of so many facets of our own reactiveness to life?
Why "can't" we just shrug off as silly so many "serious" things in life, do what is humanly possible and within our control, and then move on with life. Who told us that life is "filled with suffering, tears, sweat, strife, disappointments...and the rest of the crap -- and then we sheepishly accepted it as true? Is there something like an unwritten catalog of events which "have to" be experienced as either "fun" or as "crap"?
And not only that, but we did our best to make many of those "popular truisms" correct. Do we really like tormenting ourselves so much? Come on, folks, we must deserve better than that!
Well, not trying to sound too philosophical about it, but for some mysterious reason of a stuttering consciousness evolution we choose to reserve laughing for those moments of watching funny stuff or hearing a good joke. It has to be some other script-writer to think of all the funny aspects of our soap operas -- to us it's a crying and worrying material, all until others give us a passing chance to make a laughing stock out of it.
Monkey on a Branch Lesson
I'll probably never forget that night when I was awakened by my wife's loud laughing in her sleep. It was so childishly, genuinely happy laughter that I couldn't help but join her, like an idiot not knowing what was so funny.
Well, poor thing, she tried to tell me, but she could not make it past first few words, because she got another wave of laughter mixed with tears. After a few attempts she finally managed to say it through laughter.
You would never think what made her laugh so much in her dream. Four words: "Monkey on a branch". With my half-sleeping mind at first I couldn't get it, just like you can't now. "O.K., monkey on a branch...and then what?" - I begged, trying to make some sense out of it. No, she just gave me another couple of rounds of slowly simmering down laughter, helplessly shaking her head, and then fell back to sleep like a log, replacing all that laughter with a gentle snoring.
The next morning I thought about it, and it became clear. Her sleeping brain, in its normal healing phase, computed a laughing reflex --- just like we may have an erotic dream with all emotions present. Then it simply provided that picture of a monkey sitting on a branch --- not as a "trigger for laughter", but as a visual symbolism to that laughing reflex.
Why is that nocturnal laughter relevant to our story? Because it shows how our mind can compute a laughter for no logical cause -- but also a string of knee-jerk lousy responses which have nothing to do with the apparent "outward causes". Yes, our nervous system can play, and does play, these dirty tricks on us all the time.
So we are interpreting our life situations in gloomy colors, while it was perfectly possible for us to be amused by them -- just by a slight shift in attitude.
Those Crying Violins
What if we are so addicted to negativities that even those neutral circumstances and events make us respond with worries, paranoid cautiousness, defensiveness, and upsets of all kinds? What if our mind is just catering with negative impressions to those knee-jerk automatisms in our nervous system?
Have you ever got a sudden sensation like you got a mosquito bite, and you even slap your arm, only to realize that there was no damn mosquito there at all?
So, why are we like that, and could we change that? For the first part of the question, it's quite understandable when we look at the most of our culture that's merely refining the proverbial "human condition" immersed into an ocean of sweat, tears, and blood.
That refinement is easily detectable in all those artistic expressions in literature, music, and other forms of art. Ancient people even put those ugly or grimacing heads on the facades of their buildings and temples --- as if to remind people "what life was all about", I would guess.
The best hits in music have lyrics about "unanswered or betrayed love", "loneliness", "shortness of life", "being sorry", "blame"...and alike pearls of depression. In an interview, a famous European singer-composer even talked about his creations as a "stock", and a big "market demand" for those sad lyrics and melancholic harmonies written in key-minors to match something in our repertoire of lousy emotionalism.
As for the second part of that question, yes, we can retrain our attitude to start seeing life as fun. Then even those unavoidable sad moments of separation by death may find our nervous system much more ready to deal with the grief, possibly keeping them at a more bearable intensity, while allowing the time to do the rest of healing.
Of Comedians and Thinkers
So, let's try to see it within our potential to create some of our own "monkeys on a branch". For a moment, think why are those comedians so quick at finding a funny line while they are interviewed on someone's talk show. Obviously, they could not rehearse it by predicting every detail of where the conversation would go.
Remember that late genius Robbin Williams who was particularly known for such improvisations. I personally used to know a dude who was "spontaneously funny" in most of situations, being a gift to every party.
Yes, it all starts with an attitude, a willingness not to take life and ourselves too seriously. When you remember the face of Dalai Lama, what automatically comes to mind is his smiling or laughing expression. Moreover, if you ever listened to His Holy Dudeness, he is even mixing his speech with laughter. I just love the guy, he is not only wise, but a fun to watch.
Which reminds me of a Tibetan monk who once wrote to the exiled Lama asking for forgiveness, because he allegedly had to "work harder on himself to start loving their Chinese oppressors". It seems like there is this spiritual drive in us to convert life hardships into positive responses.
While no one is expecting us westerners to follow the monk's example by "falling in love" with our taxes, our politicians, or, god-forgive the "other" party --- we could at least try to see all that as a silly nuisance not worth our nerves.
Inventing Our Own "Monkeys on a Branch"
When an idiot cuts in front of you on the road, you don't have to unload your vocabulary of profanities, but instead see him as a test for your loving your life. Indeed, life is bound to keep throwing at us all kinds of tests like that -- while giving us a chance to outgrow our knee-jerk emotional automatisms.
And, for some mysterious reasons often mentioned in spiritual circles -- it will keep doing so until we learn our lesson, and start seeing life as a gift, not as a "burden of an unfriendly world that's on a mission to keep us miserable in every way possible".
They say "laughter is the best medicine", but we first have to "want to be cured". Would you find it hard to believe that many folks are subconsciously sabotaging that best in themselves, because they are scared of any change, even if the change looks incredibly promising. That's how that expression "comfort zone" got inspired. We just can't help but love our misery, after it has become our everyday companion.
I could even go as far as saying that, once when that resistance to change is overcome, that best in us may spontaneously emerge from the depths of our potential, and we may suddenly find so much of life amusing.
The most effective inspiration is still to be found in those humorous shows which are turning all human drama into a silly, amusing stuff. So, next time when you are watching any of them, try in your mind to reverse those situations into their serious versions.
You may be amazed how educational it may turn out to be, as you recognize that fun-factor at work, and by recognizing it realize that you have it in you to make such a conversion, ready to be applied in your own life.
Come on, folks, life is not long enough for experiments -- so just do it, simply because you CAN. Even your body and its health will thank you for inventing your own "monkey on a branch".