Look at people’s faces. They carry life as a burden — boring, with no meaning. They move as if the burden of the whole world is on their shoulders. It seems that everything is just a nightmare, a very cruel joke, that somebody is playing a trick, torturing them. Life is not a celebration, it cannot be. With a mind burdened by painful memories and regrets, life cannot be a celebration in the present moment. Even if they are tickled it won’t invoke even a smile. Even if we laugh, our laughter carries boredom. Look at people laughing: they laugh with an effort. Their laugh may be just to be mannerly; their laugh may be just etiquette.
I have heard about one dignitary who went to Africa to visit a community, a very old, primitive community of aborigines. He gave a long lecture. He told a very long anecdote — for almost half an hour the anecdote continued — then the interpreter stood up. He spoke only four words and the primitives laughed heartily.
The dignitary was puzzled. He had been telling the anecdote for half an hour, how could it be translated in four words? It seemed impossible and people understood; they were laughing — a belly laugh.
Puzzled, he said to the interpreter, “You have done a miracle. You have spoken only four words. I don’t know what you said but how can you translate my story, which was so long, into only four words?”
The interpreter said, “Story too long, so I say, ‘He says joke — laugh!’
What type of laughter will come out? Just mannerly etiquette will come out and this man has been laboring for half an hour. Look at people’s laughter. It is a mental thing, they are making an effort; their laughter is false.
Economy of Laughter
Mulla Nasrudin listened very attentively while a stranger told a long story, which was suppose to be funny, in the coffee-house.
But the man spoke so indistinctly and muffed his punch line so badly that the story was not funny at all and except for the Mulla, no one laughed. But the Mulla laughed heartily.
“Why did you laugh, Nasrudin?” I asked him afterwards when the stranger had left.
“I always do,” replied Nasrudin. “If you don’t laugh, there is always the danger of their telling it all over again!”
People have their own reasons. Even laughter is businesslike; even laughter is economic, political. Even laughter is not just laughter. All purity is lost. We cannot even laugh in a pure way, in a simple way, childlike.
If we cannot laugh heartily in a pure way, without any inhibitions, we are losing something tremendously valuable. We are losing our purity, our innocence.
One may say, “How can one laugh if there are so many miseries, sorrows or pain in life?”
No one in this world is free from some kind of misery, sorrow or pain or some problem. Only two entities have absolutely no problem – one is a dead body and the other is yet to be born! Life, after all, is a series of ups and downs. Even a straight line on an ECG indicates death.
We need to focus on one very important aspect and that is — nothing is permanent in this ephemeral existence. Everything in the ephemeral existence, including the pairs of opposites like happiness and miseries, joys and sorrows, pleasure and pain etc. are all impermanent – just a passing phase. Experience them while they last, learn the lessons they teach and move on. Always remember that the negative events and experiences teach us more than the positive ones. They are vital for our spiritual evolution.
Ultimately, if we look at life, we will realize that no one has everything and everyone has something of sorrow intermingled with gladness of life. The trick is to make the laughter outweigh the tears.
The mind should be freed from the past, which exists but as memory, and the future, which exists but as worry — a mixture of fear and hope.
The more we live in the present moment, instead of constantly oscillating between past regrets and future anxieties, more naturally and spontaneously the smile and the laughter will manifest.