The feeling of joy is a strange emotion. It can derive from momentous events – winning the great championship, realising a long-nourished ambition, owning one’s own home at last. The safe birth of a child is a supreme example of joy unconfined. But joy can also derive from the most inconsequential of discoveries – the moon, for example, suddenly appearing from behind clouds to flood the great Essequibo with shimmering light.
I remember with what delight, to give one odd instance, I read about the South African dung beetle which navigates by the Milky Way – somehow it opened in me a joyful realisation of the infinite and marvellous variety of life to know that there are these insects which use not only the sun and moon to find their way but even on pitch-black moonless nights can use the Milky Way galaxy to go in the right direction. It simply gave me great pleasure to learn that these splendid beetles which, observant scientists have revealed, perform wonderfully intricate orientation dances on the dung balls they extrude, are enabled to go straight guided by that great God-glitter in the night sky.
I guarantee when you look back on any single day in your life, especially if you are in reasonably good health, and deliberately count them you will find many more blessings and delights than you fully appreciated at the time before they disappeared into the past.
Yet there is one occupation where there seems to be no joy. I have to wonder if our politicians are ever happy. Of course, in their incarnations as human beings, in the bosom of their families and in the embrace of their friends, they must be happy a lot of the time. But as politicians, are they ever really happy? They seem to expect us to think of them as always disgruntled. They forever seem to be accusing and complaining and finding fault and belittling others and rowing and metaphorically gnashing their teeth. They always seem so unpleasant and embittered and morose. But I have met many politicians in their private lives and the very great majority are not unpleasant, embittered and morose. Not at all. What is it? Does the vaccine which has to be administered to all politicians immunise them – except for the very rare Mandela – against forbearance and the happiness which comes with forbearance?
Perhaps our political leaders should lighten things up and take a leaf out of a laughter consultant’s playbook. I am pleased to find that such a career exists. The particular man I have in mind is Albert Nerenberg from Montreal, a laughologist and documentary film maker (Laughology).
Nerenberg was a principal participant in the Great Canadian Laughing Championships last November when I got to know about him. That splendid event dovetailed with the Canadian Laughter Yoga Conference designed to explore the inner and outer limits of relaxation. Perfect for politicians.
Nerenberg explains that laughter releases dopamine in the brain which creates a sense of well-being. He explains further as follows, “Just the exhalation with ha-ha-ha while making eye contact will provoke laughter. In front of a crowd, it always generates real laughter.” Nerenberg has been to laughter events in 12 countries and the formula works every time. “That ha-ha sound is very primordial. That trigger can work on just about anybody.” I do not think even politicians will be immune.
Laughing Championships started three years ago in Montreal and have spread around the world, from Australia and Japan to the US and Slovenia. Laughers engage in one-on-one challenges in various categories, including the Alabama Knee-Slapper, the Diabolical Laugh, the Transatlantic Chuckle and a very new category the Sexiest Laugh. There are also team contests but I can’t understand exactly how that works.
I think the time is ripe for such a competition to be staged in Guyana. Perhaps President Ramotar, David Granger and the Speaker might jointly sponsor the event. Until then we will have to be content with what is, thank goodness, a very good substitute – the Link Show which opens this week and in doing so celebrates 30 years of delighting, provoking, entertaining and bringing laughter and joy to us all.