What Made Baby Thea Laugh?
is a story I have in this June Newsletter. If you would like it and it's not in the Archives, sign up here for future newsletters, and send me an email request.
ANALYSIS OF A LAUGH (few snippets from Wikipedia)
A general theory that explains laughter is called the relief theory. Sigmund Freud summarized it in his theory that laughter releases tension and psychic energy. This theory is one of the justifications of the beliefs that laughter is beneficial for one's health. This theory explains why laughter can be as a coping mechanism for when one is upset, angry or sad.
Philosopher John Morreall theorizes that human laughter may have its biological origins as a kind of relief at the passing of danger.
This is how this theory works in the case of humor: a joke creates an inconsistency, the sentence (or action) appears to be not relevant, and we automatically try to understand what the sentence (action) says, supposes, doesn't say, and implies; if we are successful in solving this 'cognitive riddle', and we ﬁnd out what is hidden within the sentence, and what is the underlying thought, and we bring foreground what was in the background, and we realize that the surprise wasn't dangerous, we eventually laugh with relief.
Otherwise, if the inconsistency is not resolved, there is no laugh, as Mack Sennett pointed out: when the audience is confused, it doesn't laugh (this is the one of the basic laws of a comedian, called exactness). The extent of the inconsistency (timing, rhythm, etc.) has to do with the amount of danger we feel, and thus how hard or long we laugh.
The look on her face, in Thea's photo, demonstrates clearly that her developing mind was in process of solving a cognitive riddle, an inconsistency. There was possible danger being processed. Somewhere within those three seconds of staring (after my double-take in the story), she resolved the conundrum. And because she laughed so hard and so long, it is assured that the success achieved was huge. She realized that the surprise was not, in fact, dangerous at all! A joke evolved her brain and health.
HIDE AND SEEK
Analyzing a laugh, is also related to, and resolves my personal, 21 year old cognitive riddle regarding a child's most primitive and persistent game – Hide and Seek! For me, the riddle was always Why this game? What's so intense and intriguing for them?
I'll throw my thoughts out there. From infancy till she was about ten, my daughter seemed obsessed. Every day we had to do the game over and over: under the covers, behind doors, through windows, hiding in closets, under the sink till she could barely ﬁt, in the dryer...! Endless.
But now, if I'm in line in a store and there is an infant in front of me, I am programmed to jump into the ritual: I gently and very clearly smile at them, cover my eyes, wait two seconds, then gently, but suddenly, lift up my hand, peek-a-boo, and smile. There is always a response. The response varies in intensity, but I get one! I know there is a certain skill in doing this for maximizing the effect (i.e. one of the basic laws of a comedian, called "exactness", timing, cleanness of movement, rhythm, etc.). Kids aren't fussy, they just want to laugh at any old thing!
Listen: I believe there is, for them, a clear Danger that the person has disappeared. And when you remove the cover, it is a Surprise, a delight, a relief, and a release of Psychic Energy, which both stimulates the brain to ﬁnd a solution, i.e., brain development, and also releasing something akin to endorphins, I bet. Laughter, so beneficial to health. We grow out of it. Grow back into it!
Listen: Kids are always looking for the next laugh. Thea, at 21, still is, and I have used her as my role model. Now I am always looking for the next laugh, too! Thank you, Thea. My daughter also adores Tickle Fights. When I asked her Why?, she welled up with tears. I waited. She looked at me after a few minutes and quietly whispered, It's Love. If that isn't gorgeous, what is?
Thea has become a booming, shrieking, gasping-for-breath laughter. Whenever he hears anybody laugh like that, her friend, Mark Kieth, calls it doing a Thea.
ADULTS AND HIDE & SEEK
Here's another thing: I think the ramifications of Hide and Seek go way deeper and persist into adulthood, as a basic primitive Calling, if you will. I believe this game, Hide and Seek, is part of our creative fabric. It EGGS US ON.
EGGS US ON
We are made in the Image and Likeness of Source Energy, which does nothing but Create. We are Chips-off-the-old-block.
We ain't gonna be happy unless we do the same! Egged on!
Source Energy creates effortlessly, that's the difference! But we are down here pushing our own envelopes. So when we attempt to Create, manifest a new desire, there is a sense of risk, danger. We get the Inner Nay-sayers playing inner videos of Doom and Destruction. For the sake of brevity, isn't this what keeps us from saying YES! It's the Ego, of course. Outrageous simplification, but the Ego is meant to protect us, keep us from crossing the street when there's a truck six feet away. We need to tell the Ego to Shut Up! when we're going for something we want to manifest in our lives! We're not going to disappear or die in the process of seeking to express and evolve ourselves. There's No Danger. Hey you, out there, Listen: Laugh much more. Keep your powder dry, keep on dancing, take on the ear-piercing street smarts of Ethel Merman in Gypsy, Sing out, Louise!
I see Hide & Seek as the Dance of Creative Life. Of us as
Creators. We put ourselves at Risk, in Danger (not really), waiting
for the Payoff Success and Relief. We're pushing the envelope.
IT'S WHERE LIFE IS. OUT THERE ON THE LEADING EDGE,
HON. WHERE THERE'S NEVER A CROWD!
Laughter is the language of God.
God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.
Laughter is the closest thing to the Grace of God.
Laughter springs from the lawless part of our nature.
Laughter is the Renegade Grace of God.
God is continuously laughing his•her ass off.
Upcoming weekly installations:
- BLOG #2 • JUNE 22 • LORD CHESTERFIELD
Dude of Doom & Gloom – Sturm und Drang
(a guyʼ so bad, we have to say it in German)
- BLOG #3 • JUNE 29 • THE HEALING POWER OF LAUGHTER
How the Marx Brothers Brought Norman Cousins Back to Life
- BLOG #4 • JULY 6 • GIGGLE from Wonderful Ways to Love a Child