A Sense of Humor
A phrase I’ve heard throughout my life is: “Have a sense of humor.” The way that people say it is almost akin to the way they offer a breath mint: “Here, take one.”
But you can’t offer someone a sense of humor that way. A sense of humor is developed, like any other sense. I wouldn’t turn to you if you didn’t enjoy a concert and say “have a sense of hearing!” Or if you didn’t like the art in a gallery, “have a sense of vision!” I may instead perhaps try and introduce you to elements of a painting that make it interesting from my point of view, or have you listen to music with really nice headphones to appreciate the subtleties.
This also means that having a sense of humor isn’t the same as being funny. We often hear the two things conflated. Being funny is an act of creativity, of surprise, of connecting two unlike ideas together in such a way that it seems obvious in retrospect.
But a sense of humor is more like a compass that can be used to tune in. Amusement is the state or experience of finding something funny or entertaining. Let’s emphasize that word, state. Unlike being funny, which requires a habit of thinking creatively, getting into a “state” simply requires certain triggers.
That means that almost anything can be funny if you think about it in the right way. It’s partially the reason why monks, when they achieve satori or enlightenment, find that the only thing they can do is laugh about it. Perhaps it’s the seriousness with which they took life before enlightenment in contrast to the new of way of looking at things. Enlightenment could be, then, a sustained state of amusement, or an elongated sense of humor.
You can’t “have” a sense of humor any more than you can “have” a sense of vision. It’s there, within all of us, but only activated under the right circumstances.
So this is what I shall practice every day: getting the circumstances necessary to achieve a sense of humor.