For a very serious academic study of humor, let me introduce British theorist Alastair Clarke (2009), whose latest eBook is The Faculty Of Adaptability: Humor As The Assessment And Manipulation Of Information. As a free gift from the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor and Pyrrhic House, the book’s British publisher, members were able to down-load this prolific academic study. Even though I find Clarke’s (2009) scholarship difficult to comprehend, I was very impressed with the first paragraph on his book’s back cover:

Human adaptability is unparalleled elsewhere in the animal kingdom. By an advanced ability to select the best possible tool for the job and to put resources to the widest possible range of applications, the ingenuity of the species has led to exponential intellectual and cultural development. This ability, claims evolutionary theorist Alastair Clarke, arises due to a facility with the recognition of patterns which, in turn, has been encouraged by the cognitive processes known popularly as humor. In short, humor has made the species what it is today. (2009,jacket) Wow. Alastair Clarke (2009) really does take the academic study of humor seriously, as his book title suggests.  Somebody has to study humor this seriously, I suppose.

Consciousness: That annoying time between naps.

-Bumper Sticker spotted by Professor R. Bruce Baum

Due to the fact that I’ve been engaged in a somewhat-serious study of consciousness for the past several years, I feel some obligation to report on research done on humor and laughter as states of consciousness. This proved no easy task, as I soon discovered after hours of Internet searches. Numerous websites contain little or no suitable material for my particular area of research. Finally, I found a mini treasure trove. One especially worthy of mention is “The Consciousness Raising Connections Group” in Tempe, Arizona, guided by David Weston (2009, david_weston@yahoo.com, www, TempeSocrates.com)., Weston has had careers as an improvisational comedy instructor as well as a year as a Peace Corps high school teacher.

When the group gathered on January 21, for a first meeting in 2009, “Laughter and Humor to Raise Consciousness” was their topic du jour: “What is consciousness?”, “How do you raise consciousness?”, and “How does laughter and humor raise consciousness?” are just a few of the questions that David posed (2009,p.1). Unfortunately, Weston notified me by e-mail that he is “exhausted from all this raising of consciousness” (D. Weston, personal communication, May 11, 2009)). Apparently, he’s run out of steam, and this group will likely lose his leadership. How disappointing. Not only is a group that desires to raise consciousness signify a collective leap, but inquiring into how one can use laughter and humor to raise consciousness (laughter and humor already ARE states of consciousness) may  be a gigantic planetary step which could mean better health for all, Mother Earth included.    

Humor and laughter are known by many to lead to an altered state of consciousness (even if there isn’t much written about it), which differs from the state we’re normally in (whatever it means to be “normal”). Humor and non-stop laughter (with “feel-good” chemicals) are likely responsible for many altered states of consciousness I’ve experienced and enjoyed. However, there are a variety of activities that can cause this dramatic “shift” in consciousness: Hypnosis, dancing, drumming, praying, meditating, singing or listening to certain music (the Beatles, yeah!), and chanting to name a few.

While searching for relevant information on humor and laughter as states of consciousness was frustrating, my research results for humor or laughter as altered states of consciousness were dismal. Despite my visiting a research librarian, as well as seeking the assistance of several knowledgeable professionals in the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor(AATH), I came-up empty. There appears to be an appalling lack of scholarship available on this important state of consciousness.

Eventually, I was relieved to find a sole reference to humor and altered states in the writing of David Jacobson (2007), author, social worker, and genuinely funny guy from Tucson, Arizona. (I met him at a recent AATH conference.)  Jacobson’s (2007) choice of words positively raised my consciousness up a notch: “If you have to be addicted to something, I recommend an addiction to humor. It is one of the only addictions that can alter your consciousness without damaging your health, and can actually improve your health” (2007,p.87). You’re right on, David. Alas, I was unable to connect with him, because I was interested to hear about his experiences with humor-induced states.

So it looks like I’ll have to step-up to the plate, and try and describe my own experience with laughter or humor as an altered state of consciousness. Although I’m short on credentials in this area of expertise, let me state that since we’re all so very unique, every individual’s experience will be different.  Consciousness is- at least for me- the ever-deepening flow of Mystery, I feel this flow and I just know it contains laughter– and joy. It’s such a powerful force. I love to laugh, and I’m convinced this heavenly gift from the gods must be used with a healing intention for myself and others.

David Jacobson (2007) began using humor and laughter for the same reason I do. He suffers severe pain from a particularly debilitating form of arthritis and needs the relief that humor provides. Although I cannot share his personal experience of altered states from using humor, my whole being really resonated reading David’s emotional poem “A Place for Pain” (p.9). After reading this moving poem I believe I had an Ah-ha-ha moment.  His metaphoric words are quite telling. I’m convinced that his poetry beautifully illustrates a process that may occur when I’ve entered this glee –filled state of consciousness.

His poem is rather lengthy, so I’ve focused on the verses that led me to reach my unproven theory: “I open the door, pain walks in filling my home with darkness and discontent” (p.9). A chilling prospect for anyone, I must say. I’m all too familiar with this unhappy scenario, as I’ve learned the hard way that chronic pain will continually knock loud, louder, loudly on your door despite your best efforts to silence it. In the poem, David has joy walking in his door as well (p.10). Jacobson (2007) speaks to this “joy”: “I explain that she has the wrong address/ She should be next door/ She comes in anyway/ Joy, like pain knows not of manners or proper protocol./ I open the door, humor walks in/ It fills the empty spaces/ Pain is still here/ But it has little room” (p.10).

THIS could be the reason why consciousness “shifts” to an altered state (shift happens!). There’s way less space for pain to mess with me while in this state, as a fun feeling of exhilaration, this ecstatic experience of joy, floods my system with endorphins and other beneficial chemical goodies.  Further engaging in robust, sustained laughter only intensifies this effect, I imagine. If I’m correct, whenever laughter or humor makes its grand entrance, I must be filled with a massive amount of bright shiny, healing light and an abundant radiant joy that temporarily crowds out pain, and pushes it way back into the deepest, darkest nook ‘n cranny in my psyche. Pain is likely left dazed and numbed by the power of this healing force for awhile, and sometimes long after the flowing laughter (or humor) ends. Maybe you can create less room for pain in your body with laughter and humor as therapy. I become so jazzed, rejuvenated, and reborn while in this state of consciousness, I feel completely whole and so alive for quite some time after. I hope David Jacobson (2007) has a similar experience to mine.

Before I finishing this introduction, I’d like to tell you why I believe laughter could be relevant to a holistic understanding of consciousness. Laughter Yoga’s Dr. Madan Kataria (2008) posted this brief statement on his website (laughteryoga.org/drkataria/press/world-laughter-day/) that helps me understand how vital this particular state could be for the chaotic world we live in:

Laughter is a universal language, which has the potential to unite humanity without religion. Laughter can establish a common link between various religions and create a new world order. The idea may sound over-ambitious, and maybe it is. But maybe it is not. It is our deep belief that laughter and only laughter can unite the world, building up a global consciousness of brotherhood and friendship. (p. 4 of 6)

Soon you’ll learn how laughter works on the body, mind, and spirit. And that’s holistic. However, if laughter alone holds the transformative power to unite our world as Dr. Kataria claims it does, then it truly is relevant (and necessary) for a holistic understanding of consciousness. Laughter IS one vital, transformational state of consciousness that we don’t want to live without. Read this project before you form an opinion.

To be continued.

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