Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Friday, February 24, 2012

Humor as a Survival Technique

The great Louis Armstrong sang, “It’s a Wonderful World.” Satchmo was a positive guy and someone who really enjoyed life.  He spent a lot of time grinning, laughing, and wiping his face with his white handkerchief.

If you’ve read my latest book or my blogs, you know that I’ve always admired old Satch.  My brother and I had the chance to meet him after a concert when we were kids. In fact, a policeman captured us trying to sneak backstage, but Louie told him to let us go and called us over to talk. That was a thrill for two young trumpet players.

            The point of all this is that Louis Armstrong was a happy guy, who loved to laugh and joke around. I’ve never seen things as bad in our country and the world as they are right now. Things were tough at times for Satchmo too, but he still laughed.

There are times when finding something worthy of a chuckle is like trying to find a comedy club in Iran.  

            So how do we counter balance negativism and stress?  How do we deal with circumstances that drag us down?  Faith and prayer are usually the first choice and have been proven to be effective. But in addition, many people use humor as a survival technique. Even when things are going well, humor makes life a lot more fun. Laughter is an outward expression of humor. There’s really no downside to laughter.

            In the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln read an amusing story to his staff in an attempt to remove the ominous clouds of war and depression that hung over them.  When no one in the meeting laughed or even smiled, he said, “Gentlemen, why don’t you laugh? With the fearful strain that is upon me day and night, if I did not laugh I should die, and you need this medicine as much as I do.” Honest Abe had the balance.

            Holocaust survivor, intellectual and author Victor Franki said regarding his torture and captivity, “I would never have made it if I could not have laughed. Laughing lifted me momentarily out of the horrible situation; just enough to make it livable and survivable.

            The New England Journal of Medicine published an article by Norman Cousins that began the “laughter therapy” experiments. Cousins cured himself of a terminal disease by isolating himself with old comedy movies and literally laughed himself back to health. He wrote a book on his experience called, “Anatomy of an Illness.”

            Even Mahatma Gandhi said, “If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.” The point is that if strong individuals like these guys used humor to get through tough situations, it could be a lesson for all of us.

            The opportunities for levity and frivolity are becoming more difficult to find as we watch social and political trends, but you can create your own humor. Most of us are afraid to let it loose. Just relax, bypass the inhibitions of “maturity,” think outside the box, twist reality, look at situations from a distance, exaggerate a thought to the extreme and basically exercise your creativity. There is a plethora of material for humor all around us.

He may have been a little too anthropomorphic, but Plato said, “Even the gods love jokes.” Plato had too much time on his hands.

Laughter is healthy. Grasping, interpreting, and responding to humor activates both hemispheres of the brain. So it’s good for your brain as well as your body. The amazing way the brain processes humor is an interesting subject for another article.

In a nutshell, there are many benefits to laughter and creative humor. It’s healthy, cheap, and sometimes the best pill as an antidote to negativism. You don’t need a prescription for the humor pill. And you don’t need to check with your doctor to see if you are healthy enough for humorous activity.

Take the humor pill and add joy to your life . . . but if your laughter lasts more than four hours, call your doctor.


  1. Har har har!!!!!

    I agree. We could get pretty discouraged at things around us (especially as we get a little or a lot of age on our old bones) and a bit of humor is always helpful.

    The other morning, about 5:45 am, I was getting ready for a shower. As I stood there buck-naked (not a pretty site) I looked in the mirror and proclaimed "you are one ugly duck"!

    When I got out of the shower my wife asked me who I was talking to. I told her about the mirror and she really thought that was quite funny but true!

    The rest of the day went quite well.

    Keep me laughing! More New Orleans stories!

  2. I can relate to the mirror thing, Ed. I try not to look in the mirror. But I honestly believe that the ability to laugh at ourselves is important for mental stability. Especially as we age. On the other hand, maybe my laughing is why Gayle thinks I'm nuts.

  3. Fortunately, I don't need a humore pill. Like Ed, I just look in the mirror. Nothing more need be said.

  4. Rog - You know...I think you and Ed may have come up with a sure-fire laugh producer for all of us "ancient athletes."