Before you do anything else, go watch this.
I’ll wait. It’s only 36 seconds.
Did you laugh? I do. Every. Single. Time. My husband, when I just played this (and laughed) again, declared it was “like daily therapy” for me. That’s probably true. It’s definitely true there are worse kinds of therapy out there. So I’ll take the Screaming Symphony Sleeper.
Why do we laugh at that? Sure, it could be schadenfreude. I think it’s closer to how Mike, the Martian “stranger” of the sci-fi novel Stranger in a Strange Land (one of my very favorites), describes it. He said, we “laugh because it hurts so much … because it’s the only thing that’ll make it stop hurting.”
Okay, so maybe that’s a bit heavy. Bear with me, though.
I think, in that instant, we hear that symphony-goer scream, we feel the immediate and monstrous “pain” she must feel the moment she realizes she just screamed herself awake… in front of hundreds of other people… in a situation where you’re supposed to be very, very quiet. In fact, you may have started laughing in anticipation of that pain – before you even heard her scream – because you knew it was coming (thanks, article title!). The laughter releases the discomfort.
That’s one of the points I found so fascinating in another #Swipefile entry on how Inuit parents teach their kids to control anger. I started reading the article out of interest as an occasionally angry parent with occasionally angry children (we’re all human, after all).
Then, suddenly, the article turned into a fascinating foray into the power and potential of storytelling. If you’re interested in storytelling (or not-angry children), it’s a must-read. The short version, though, is this: once a child has calmed down, and often much later, Inuit parents tell and act out stories about similar anger-causing moments. But not necessarily serious stories. Quite the opposite. The stories are funny – they make the children laugh as much as they make the children think. They’re the “spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down.”
Think about that: the laughter doesn’t get in the way of the learning. It encourages it.
That’s partly why I so often put weird or funny stuff in the #Swipefile. It can be tempting, when you’re focused on creating change in the world, to focus on the seriousness of the situation. To think that you need to be serious to be taken seriously. It took me a long time to learn to be silly on stage (or give silly examples) for that very reason.
But people need the ridiculous to fully absorb the sublime. They need the release of the silly to lighten the load of the serious.
And if you’re worried that you’re not funny? Then stop trying to BE funny and share the things you find funny, instead. In fact, as I learned from my talented friend Clementina, when you’re trying to find stories, often the most painful stories have the seeds of your funniest ones… because of the whole “laugh instead of cry” thing. Remind me to tell you about that time I thought I was killing my mother (I wasn’t).
So, yeah, you could fill your messages, posts, and talks with all the serious examples and studies of how people react to new technologies. Or you could talk about how people thought riding on a train would make women’s uteruses fly out.
You could list all the very valid and important reasons your audience needs to be prepared for change. Or show them the Screaming Symphony Sleeper.
In fact, do both. Because the path from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again is the path of any great story, and of all of us as humans. It’s how we learn, and as the Inuit show us, it’s how we learn to be human.
It’s also a heck of a lot more fun.Laughter doesn't get in the way of learning. It encourages it. Click To Tweet
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