Humans can be distinguished from other life forms by the opposable thumb, sophisticated languages, abstract thinking, embarrassment, sarcasm, and constant complaining. And it’s also laughter that separates us from hyenas and enables us to survive the cosmic disconnect. Consciousness vs. Life. Oy. I’m getting a headache.
And if human beings couldn’t laugh, it’s possible that our entire species would have exploded by spontaneous combustion and drowned in the Nile delta muck in 117,213 B.C.
Laughter is so serious that it probably saved our lives. Without it, our brains and hearts could have overheated and sparked a species-killing conflagration.
The English language, the beast, has a word for the study of laughter. Appropriately, I guess, it’s hard to take the word seriously: Gelotology. I know. It sounds like jello. And wouldn’t we rather laugh at jello than study it?
In case you don’t believe me, which is totally believable, have a look:
But you don’t have to look at the article. It’s really short, and doesn’t explain anything. All it does is validate that gelotology is actually a word. Plus it’s not funny. The only funny part of the article is the word itself. Which reminds me of the great line from the great physicist Richard Feynman:
Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.
Corollary: Gelotology is about as useful to laughter as jello is to someone who wants dessert.
This investigation into the critical importance of laughter which could save our entire species from certain doom now barrels with gathering gravity to the mighty conclusion:
Dissecting humor is like dissecting a frog: nobody is much interested, and the frog dies. — E.B.White
Speaking of the mighty conclusion — one reason we love humor is that it doesn’t have one. It’s a conclusion-free zone. Therefore, let’s not put the kibosh on all this with the thud of a conclusion. Rather, let’s conserve the open ends. The refreshment of laughter, let it percolate at the cellular level. You can feel it effervescing even without a punch line. Re-fresh-ment. Ahh, and aha!