Be Playful

Aspects of Playfulness: Humble Humour

Posted on: 30 September 2008

man-laughing
Photo by Per Ola Wiberg.

girl-smiling
Photo by Victor Bezrukov.

flying-angels-1
Photo by poshyananda.

‘Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly’
~ G. K. Chesterton

The Secret to a Life of Beauty

Have you ever been so captivated by someone that your life suspends itself for a moment whilst you absorb the infectious radiance of their being?

There is a secret to this life of beauty.  The secret is humility.

A humble person is like a child at play.  Like a child so engrossed in her imaginary world that she forgets to question how realistic pink dragons and invisible giants really are, humble people are so engrossed in the act of living fully, and of sharing this utter-aliveness with everyone they meet, that they forget to wonder whether or not they are really being humble and generous.

Humility, then, cannot be learnt.  As soon as you try to learn humility, you begin to reflect on how humble you are being, and you are invaded with self-consciousness and pride.  Humility cannot be learnt – it must be lived.

Light-hearted Humility

There is something light-hearted about humble people.  They abound with laughter.  They know deep down that the world we live in is a place to be cherished and enjoyed.    They also know, even more deeply, that it is a far from perfect world, that all human existence is far from ideal.  They know how to laugh at the absurdity of the world and the incongruence of their own lives.

Humility cannot be taught, but light-heartedness and laughter can, and this is one step towards the humble life.  Humble laughter is not cynical or spiteful, but beautiful and ripe; it is laughter that resounds from the core of your being.

Laughing at something – not mockingly, but genuine laughter of delight – is to cherish that thing, to recognise its true value whilst realising that it will not last forever, that it is not ours to keep, but only to share with others.

What then, can we laugh at?

Laughing at Ourselves

lady-laughing
Photo by doug88888.

Humble people laugh at themselves.  They know that they will never have complete control of their life – so instead of trying to control their exterior lives, they let the true life within them flow out into the world.

Laughter exposes the gap between what we think life should be like, and what life is actually like.  Humour is only possible because of the conflict between dreams and reality.

Being able to laugh at yourself makes life less stressful.  It helps you realise that although you can’t control when life knocks you down, those knock-down moments don’t have to control how you feel.

It is often said that the saddest people are the funniest people.  Those who have experienced the worst in life no longer need fear it, and are able to laugh at and within everything life throws at them.

Laughing at the world

girls-laughing
Photo by World Resources Institute Staff.

The world is an absurd place.  We think we are safe, building up a secure castle around us, and suddenly the walls fall down and we have no idea what happened.  Powerful people pretend they are in control and know what’s going on, but really they are as blind and clueless as the rest of us.

Stock markets crash, oil prices soar, and food shortages plague much of the world.  We used to laugh at the few lone voices that predicted these things would happen.   Now, would it not be better to laugh at the power that thinks it is in control, but never sees these things coming?

Laughing is an act of standing up for justice.  It allows us to look beyond the pomposity of everything considered important and everlasting, and to see its fallibility and transience.  It reveals the incongruences and contradictions in the world.  It deflates the inflated and elevates those who have been devalued.

Laughing at other people

children-laughing
Photo by sytoha.

To laugh at other people is to delight in the beauty and wonder of all that they are, and everything they bring to the world. Laughing alongside them, we share in their joy and happiness.

Laughter builds community and relationships.  It breaks down barrier of mistrust and fear, puts rivalry to one side and makes reconciliation possible.

Perhaps most importantly, having a good laugh makes you fun to be around.

Health Warning

At the risk of taking laughter too seriously, I’d like to share its health benefits.  According to medical people, laughter can:

  • reduce stress
  • boost your immume system
  • lower brood pressure
  • lift your mood
  • protect your heart
  • make you instantly relaxed

In Conclusion

Humour and humility both recognise the foolishness of pretending to be something we are not. They both know that every person is a fallible, messed-up, beautiful human being – and that this is the reason to sing, dance and smile in celebration of being alive

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11 Responses to "Aspects of Playfulness: Humble Humour"

Amen to that. I’m a great believer in not taking ourselves too seriously. One of my posts on the subject is Dolphins, Humility and Humor/ . Another is What I Learned From Being Downsized.

When people start criticizing one another my reaction is, “Hey, lighten up. We’re all a bunch of nuts doing the best we can.”

Jean Browman–Cheerful Monk’s last blog post..please update commentluv plugin

Hi David – Laughter is great medicine, isn’t it? I remember reading stories of how people recover quicker from surgeries if they watch funny movies and spend time laughing. It’s good for the soul.

Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..please update commentluv plugin

Jean, thanks for sharing your posts. I find criticism hard to take, which makes it difficult for me to criticise others. I wonder at what point we should stand up and say what we believe, even when it’s unpopular?

Barbara, I’ve heard that too – about people recovering from illnesses through laughter. There is a definite relationship between laughter and hope.

David,
I’m confused, how does your comment

“I find criticism hard to take, which makes it difficult for me to criticise others. I wonder at what point we should stand up and say what we believe, even when it’s unpopular?”

connect with your statement

“every person is a fallible, messed-up, beautiful human being – and that this is the reason to sing, dance and smile in celebration of being alive.”

What exactly does criticism look like to you? Could you be a bit more specific? It would help if you gave some examples.

Thanks!

Humour and humility both recognise the foolishness of pretending to be something we are not. They both know that every person is a fallible, messed-up, beautiful human being – and that this is the reason to sing, dance and smile in celebration of being alive.

Jean Browman–Cheerful Monk’s last blog post..please update commentluv plugin

An excellent post with many facets of humor and unassuming qualities.

Damien’s last blog post..please update commentluv plugin

[…] Aspects of Playfulness: Humble Humour: beplayful.o… An excellent post with many facets of humor and unassuming qualities. […]

Jean,
Thanks for your question – I didn’t explain myself too well in my last comment. So I’ll explain it better, then I’ll try to explain the connection.

Criticism hurts me. A lot. Knowing how much criticism hurts me, I am reluctant to critise other people.

However, as you pointed out in your first comment, there comes a time when you’ve just got to tell people to ‘lighten up’. Or if you see someone bullying another person, you recognise that you might need to intervene and ‘criticise’ the person doing the bullying.

I’m big on social justice – so I try to buy fairtrade, do my best for the environment, campaign for those who suffer injustice. When I see other people doing differently – not buying fairtrade, not caring for the environment, not knowing that their actions are causing injustice – at what point should I step in with my ‘criticism’? For me, I find it difficult to step in and criticise the bully or the unjust person because I know how hard it is to take criticism. I hope that goes some way to explaining my point.

I think this is where the ‘singing, dancing and smiling in celebration of being alive’ comes in. Because I don’t like to directly criticise people, I try to live in a way that my whole life and way of being challenges injustice – I explain some of this in my post Why Clowns Make the Best World Changers.

I hope that makes some sense – it’s not entirely clear in my head yet, so thanks for pointing out the disconnect there.

I also hope it was clear that I was responding to your comments about criticism – I hadn’t meant to imply in anyway that you were criticising me, although looking at my comment, I can see how it could have seemed like that.

Damien,
Thanks again for your support. I really appreciate all you do for beplayful.org.

No, I didn’t think you were implying I was criticizing you. I was just trying to go deeper into the conversation.

So what do we do when someone says or does something that bothers us? There have been too many times when I just let it go, and I agree, we want to stand up for our values without attacking the other person. The first thing that comes to mind is Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication, about “giving and receiving from the heart”.

The key aspects are

* Honestly Expressing how I am and what I would like without using blame, criticism or demands
* Empathically Receiving how another is and what he/she would like without hearing blame, criticism or demands

Whether expressing or receiving, NVC focuses our attention on four pieces of information:

* Observations—Objectively describing what is going on without using evaluation, moralistic judgment, interpretation or diagnosis
* Feelings—Saying how you feel (emotions and body sensations) about what you have observed without assigning blame
* Needs—The basic human needs that are or not being met and are the source of feelings
* Requests—Clear request for actions that can meet needs

This information came from http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/aboutnvc/keyfacts.htm

A chart of the process is at http://www.nonviolentcommunication.com/aboutnvc/4partprocess.htm

There’s plenty more information out there, but this will give you a feeling for whether the idea appeals to you. If you like it we can discuss it further.

I Iove your attitude!

Jean Browman–Cheerful Monk’s last blog post..please update commentluv plugin

Humility also allows us to love others fully. Terrific post!

Jamie Simmerman’s last blog post..please update commentluv plugin

Yes it does brings suspension of bad thoughts and give more room for friendship and a nice pretty community. Thanx for this!

sharon’s last blog post..please update commentluv plugin

Re: “Those who have experienced the worst in life no longer need fear it, and are able to laugh at and within everything life throws at them.”

This is such a precious gem and so true.

When you come to realize the ‘bigness’ of who you are as a universal all expansive soul, witnessing the antics of our ego self aspects is such fun ha!

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