"He who laugh last, children, is he who win." -Bob Marley
In his book, De Partibus Animalium (Parts of Animals), Aristotle attempted to parse out what separated humans from all other animals. Language, culture, and the ability to reason were all likely candidates, but Aristotle chose something else. Surprisingly, he concluded that it was our ability to laugh that made us uniquely human.
Cross-culturally, laughter is a universal language. From the steppes of central Asia, to the streets of Manhattan, to the jungles of the Amazon, all human people laugh. While the exact material may differ, the essence remains the same. We are all laughing at the absurdity of the human experience and the incongruities of life in general. But more importantly, we are laughing as a form of self expression.
According to Aristotle, human babies begin to laugh at 40 days old. At that exact moment laughter bubbles up from the depths and percolates through the human soul, thus forming it. In modern babies, this timeline is closer to 90 days, but the experience is the same. When a child starts to smile and laugh, the change in their affect is unmistakable. It's as if some part inside them has woken up.
Laughter is one of the most beautiful sounds to hear. The laughter of children holds a special place of innocence in our hearts. Laughter is healing. It helps us get through awkward situations. It connects us to others. It illuminates the dark nights of the soul. It reminds us of the finitude of our existence. It puts things in perspective.
Making light of heavy things is a skill worth practicing. Putting forth the effort to increase the number of smiles in a room, though, is a risky endeavor. So much can go wrong. But so much can also go right. Each and every day is an opportunity to make others laugh and to laugh with them. Spread joy wherever you can. It is contagious.