When we were children, we laughed at everything and this is something I miss a lot, now. I don’t seem to be able to laugh like that anymore; something holds me back from doing it in the same way. The period I most wish to forget is the time of adolescence when I always felt that people were laughing at me, even if, more often than not, they never really did.
Like everything else, we thankfully outgrow adolescence, wishing to forget it quickly, but we never stop longing for our childhood days. After figuring out that people were busy thinking whether we are laughing at them, while we were worrying over them doing the same thing, we feel cheated out of precious time lost, brooding over nothing at all. So, lesson learnt is, if you can’t laugh at yourself, at least don’t make yourself miserable thinking whether others are doing that job for you.
Very few people retain that impish charm, which makes them look at life and the difficulties it presents us with in an easy going manner. This sets them apart from us, who tend to cringe at such times or cave in to our emotional upheavals.
Those who can laugh at themselves are truly fortunate ones. Such people tend to be always relaxed and can walk out of any kind of difficult situation, unperturbed. The most loved characters of the book ‘Lord of the Rings’ are Merry and Pippin, and they exemplify the way in which they remain untouched even in the darkest of times, with their inherent way of making light of any kind of situation.
It is the happy going nature of the Hobbits which brings to the book such a warm and timeless character. The unforgettable scene in the chapter ‘Flotsam and Jetsam’ is when Gandalf and others reach Saruman’s domain and find everything destroyed, but feel relieved on seeing their friends, Merry and Pippin, happily enjoying a smoke, seated on the rubble of the ruined place.
My mother’s side family is like that, too. I would always find them enjoying a good chat and laughing at themselves. I found later that they had grown up in turbulent times, when a revolution was sweeping across their area, armed forces came to occupy their region and hundreds of people were massacred during those times. But ask anything about those days and they would only come up with the delectable taste of fish curry and the joys of going for a picnic into deep forests, and bonding with nature.
They would only mention in passing about the turbid times of that era. Having a great sense of humour, they remained immune to the goings on around them. Excepting for a few occasions, sadly, I do not think I have inherited that characteristic from their side.
I think one has to be very comfortable with oneself to be able to laugh at oneself. People who are able to genuinely carry it off spread sunshine all around them, wherever they go. From my college times, I still remember a classmate who was always laughing and had people around her laughing. She died very young, in fact just out of college, with a lung infection. Amongst a multitude of faces from those days, only hers survives in my mind and in my dreams, she always appears to be alive and I keep asking her, ‘I thought you were dead and yet, you live’ and she would reply with her characteristic laugh, ‘Oh! The things people say! Don’t I look alive?’
I think her laughing face just became stamped into my own mind, forever, to be brought back to life in my dreams.
The ones who use self deprecating humour in their talk are always quick to grab our attention and easily get their point across to us.
Laughing at ourselves makes life easier for us. I do not know whether by not doing so we would be leaving the job to others. Those who wish to laugh at us will do it anyway and it does not automatically follow from our inability to laugh at ourselves. Sometimes, people who laugh at others would like to be irreverent and then pass it on as our lack of sense of humour.
‘It is a joke, where is your sense of humour?’ kind of statements, must not be used as some kind of a license to insult other person’s sensibilities. If we retort in the same vein to such jokes, we find that the person’s sense of humour has suddenly vanished.
Some people move around with a plastic smile, which can be annoying to say the least. It is as if they are perpetually on the defensive from the people who they feel are going to laugh at them or going to say something out of their comfort zone.
Laughing at ourselves is something of a personal trait, one might be born with it or one might acquire it later on. It should only be used for just that, at ourselves and the situations which we are caught in and which are mostly of our own making. If it is done only so that the job is not left to others, then it becomes a mere tool of defence and not something done to relax and take a break from whatever it is that we are suffering in our lives at that point of time.