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Is laughter the best weapon for skeptical world?

Young woman laughing (Credit: pathdoc via fotolia)According to Mark Twain, laughter is the only effective weapon we have against the world. George R. R. Martin found that laughter is a poison to fear. Charles Dickens noted it was the most contagious element in the world. And were it not for laughter, Robert Frost said, we would all go insane.

Laughter is good for the soul and great for the comedian. It is bad for the brooder and awful for the poker player.

And in a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that laughter with friends sounds different than with strangers. Drawing from twenty-four different societies, they were able to significantly differentiate the sound between friends and strangers. With friends, the laughter tended to be more sporadic, whereas the stranger produced a more volitional sound.

Laughter may be different between friends and strangers, but like pizza, it is good in all forms. In another study, laughter was found to establish and restore a positive emotional climate and connection between two people. People are thirty times more likely to laugh in a group than when alone. Dr. Provine wrote that, "Laughter is not primarily about humor, but about social relationships."

Such relationships include marriage and courting. In his research, Provine found that men like women who laugh heartily in their presence. While men are more laugh inducers, women are more actual chucklers—laughing 126% more than males.

Provine concluded that the best way to get a laugh is by tickling. He notes that tickling is inherently social since we cannot tickle ourselves. This social action often has positive responses, but it should be noted that tickling ceases to be tickling when performing this intimate action on a stranger. When tickling a stranger, one can expect conflict instead of congeniality.

Regardless of whether it is with a stranger or friend, laughter is beneficial to the human experience. It has been linked to creating a higher pain tolerance due to the releasing of endorphins into the brain. These endorphins provide feelings of happiness and a sense of well-being, despite circumstances.

I guess it is true that laughter is the best medicine for the soul. But could it also be the best weapon for an absolutely non-absolute believing culture?

The mere descriptor of our culture is comedic to the rationale person because of its contradiction. But just as surely as logic did not bring them to this point, logic will not get them out of that point. As many can attest, intellectually winning an argument with non-rational person is highly unlikely. You are more likely date a married bachelor than win this argument.  

So could it be, that in our current culture, we should give more attention to strengthening the relationship than winning the argument? If laughter solidifies and strengthens relationships, maybe knock-knock jokes would serve us better than knock out brawls.

In a relationship, the actions in the present always have the future in mind. Some items will need to addressed immediately, but others will need time because the level of trust has not fully developed.

Take, for example, young love. A man does not ask a woman to make a huge change such as moving in with him on the first date. After all, he probably doesn't even feel comfortable enough to tell her she has something in her teeth. Rather, he tries to make her feel safe and comfortable, all the while having a good time. As the dates continue over the weeks and months, the level of trust and intimacy increases, as well as vulnerability. Eventually the time comes to make the ask to move in with him, but not before he can tell her she has something in her teeth…and marries her.

Apply this logic to asking someone to consider the claims of Christ. This is a huge change from an absolutely non-absolute worldview.

Should this keep us from sharing Christ? No, but it should temper our expectations. It will take time, and, unfortunately, it may take experiential heartbreak to allow them to see the error of their logic. And it is in the hurt that they will need a friend—a shoulder to cry on and a corny joke to buoy their spirit.

Kenny Rogers is right, and not just about fried chicken. You can't make old friends. With old friends, a level of trust and candor exists that has come at great cost and with hearty laughs. Either by unprovoked tickling or a borderline inappropriate joke, laughter is a great medicine for the soul—believer and unbeliever alike. But as William Shakespeare found, "Jesters do often prove as prophets."

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