Random incursions | The admirable art of laughing at oneself
Happy are those who retain the innate capacity to be able to laugh at themselves from time to time, even often. A certain calm and an inner peace are obviously necessary for an individual to be able to dig in, in this very demanding world which is ours.
The entertaining lines of a popular nursery rhyme, which have stuck in the mind from childhood, go like this “Hey, diddle, diddle / The cat and the violin / The cow jumped over the moon / The little dog laughed at so much fun / And the dish ran away with the spoon!
The little dog in question has emerged from my past to be of great interest to me as I write this article. While the composite image of this rhyme has different versions, and parents of toddlers should be familiar with it, the image of the dog, exuberant with uncontrolled mirth as it was, is particularly noteworthy. He represents most of us, when we turn around in a happy laugh at someone else’s expense, or because someone else is actually trying to make us laugh, like a baby with his antics. .
Still, only a rare human would enjoy a laugh at their expense so much, but all dogs could. A child, wrapped in the most primal radiance of innocence and a small animal or puppy, might well have fun even when others undertake a royal laugh at their expense.
For my part, I often feel a little pissed off when the joke is on me! We try to take it sportingly, and over the years we’ve improved in many ways. But somewhere below, the feeling of being able to shoot everyone’s legs and not get their own pulled, remains there even if it’s dormant. In fact, it’s a good test for me every now and then to analyze my own state of mind in such a situation.
The British Psychological Society reports in an online publication that being able to laugh at yourself is generally considered a mark of good character and the foundation of a strong sense of humor. Ironically, he adds that those who tend to laugh at themselves aren’t necessarily likely to be the laughing type in life as a whole.
Still, it’s clearly a sparkling sense of humor and a lighter outlook, despite the world and its shenanigans that sets such personalities apart. Not for them an egocentric approach to everything and everyone. Those who can make fun of themselves sportingly are remarkable people. Their minds are largely cleared of the thoughts of perception, acceptance, and overbidding.
I have been fortunate to have had the company of several close friends over the years who I could tease with aplomb, and they laughed more than I did. In my family, my maternal grandmother stood out. My grandfather was the wittiest gentleman around, who could pull a joke out of a hat anytime, and nani was usually at the front desk. All in attendance would be unable to curb their cheerful tendencies even slightly, in such situations, with my grandfather beaming for having produced yet another gem of his unique repertoire. But nani would never complain and, in fact, would laugh the loudest. Once she understood the joke, what!
My wife, Neena, is another champion in this league. Time and time again I have had the opportunity to speak eloquently, with tongue in cheek, about her Himachali roots and the strangeness of customs her family has followed for decades. But she was never offended, even from a distance, although our conversations often suggested landing stations for my joke missiles. It’s another matter that she was a lot more of a topper than I’ve ever been, and if she’d started throwing back a few fun punches, my own roots would have been strained.
Perhaps it is friendship, and of course love, that permeates such relationships and avoids the need to feel cut off when a light humor is in the air. The trick is not to go too far. As is the case with everything else in life too.