The Best Medicine

Joseph Addison – the 17th Century English writer – said “man is distinguished from all other creatures by the faculty of laughter.”  Sigmund Freud in his The Joke and its Relation to the Unconscious states that “jokes” release us from traditional inhibitions which make up the veneer of our personalities.  

Historically, the earliest known “smile” is etched on the lips of a statue of Ebbeh – a Mesopotamian factotum who lived in 2400 B.C. (Ebbeh now resides in the Louvre).  Four centuries later, we enter Biblical times.  There were no Old Testament comedians, but the word “laugh” (or “laughter”) makes its debut in the Book of Genesis.  When Abraham and Sarah are told they will have a son, both fall on their faces – laughing.  Perhaps that is why their son was named “Isaac” which in Hebrew is “He [or God] laughs.” The word “laugh” or its derivations appear 43 times in the Bible (6 of those in the New Testament).  The Koran chronicles 16 uses of the word but most relate to the faithful laughing at the inglorious fate of unbelievers. 

The Veda in Hindu text records the word “laugh” 8 times.   In Buddhist tradition, he “Laughing Buddha” was supposedly a real person – a wandering happy Zen monk named Pu-Tai who lived around 1000 A.D.  The world’s first stand-up comedian was Aristophanes (see post of 8/28/11).  He would lurch out on stage smeared with wine playing the Emperor – Cleon.  It didn’t go over well with Cleon. . . . . The first joke book was The Philogelos (“Laughter Lover“) “published” in the 4th Century A.D.  It was a collection of 264 jokes.  One depicts a chatty barber.  “How shall I cut your hair” he says to his customer.  “In silence” the man responds.   

On March 14, 2005, I delivered a paper to The Chicago Literary Club entitled “The Best Medicinehttp://www.chilit.org/Petersen4.htm The paper delved into this history of humor.  But it also discussed the healing power of humor.  It worksAnd can help.  A great deal. . . . . 

Thump my what??

We all know the value of humor (see July 29, 2011 and April 3, 2014). 

Humor can be so important in the healing process that Denise — a delightful oncology nurse in Lake County, Illinois, started a “Humor Exchange” for patients.   This monthly get together is designed to encourage people who have health issues — to start laughing.   And keep laughing.  More and more studies confirm that laughter provides a smorgasbord of physiological benefits:  increases the “Natural Killer” (NK) cell and lymphocyte count (important immune responses in the fight against cancer); decreases stress hormones; increases immune cells (“T” cells); lowers blood pressure; works your abs; release endorphins; and essentially makes you smile.  And snort. . . .

At a recent conference, Denise recently learned of another healthy technique (that sounds pretty funny).  It’s called “thumping the thymus.”  The thymus gland — which is responsible for “T” cells and immunity — lies beneath the sternum.  A person pats their sternum for a few minutes and feels better.  And enlists a potential for improving immunity.  Don’t take my word for it.  There are articles galore on this subject (see e.g. http://www.facebook.com/notes/karen-nauman-eft/eft-tapping-the-thymus-gland-8-interesting-factoids-about-the-thymus/198886030151782/ ).  So go ahead.  Thump your thymus.  What’ve you got to lose?  And while your at it . . . . laugh.   

  

The Best Medicine

On March 14, 2005, I delivered a paper to The Chicago Literary Club titled “The Best Medicine.”  The paper is a mildly academic study of the history, styles and benefits (even healing power) of humor. See http://www.chilit.org/Papers%20by%20author/Petersen4.htm   

Joseph Addison – the 17th Century English writer – said “man is distinguished from all other creatures by the faculty of laughter.”  Sigmund Freud in his The Joke and its Relation to the Unconscious states that “jokes” release us from traditional inhibitions which make up the veneer of our personalities.  Ol’ Sig’s book also contains a host of jokes, puns and one-liners. His book ain’t Planes, Trains and Automobiles but it’s worth a look. . . .  

Historically, the earliest known “smile” is etched on the lips of a statue of Ebbeh – a Mesopotamian factotum who lived in 2400 B.C. (Ebbeh now resides in the Louvre).  Four centuries later, we enter Biblical times.  While there were no Old Testament comedians, the word “laugh” (or “laughter”) makes its debut in the Book of Genesis.  When Abraham and Sarah are told they will have a son, both fall on their faces – laughing.  Perhaps that is why their son was named “Isaac” which in Hebrew is “He [or God] laughs.”  The word “laugh” or its derivations appear 43 times in the Bible (with only 6 of those in the New Testament).  The Koran chronicles 16 uses of the word but most relate to the faithful laughing at the inglorious fate of unbelievers.  The Veda in Hindu text records the word “laugh” 8 times.   In Buddhist tradition, he “Laughing Buddha” was supposedly a real person – a wandering happy Zen monk named Pu-Tai who lived around 1000 A.D. 

The first stand-up comedian was Aristophanes (see post of 8/28/11) who was known for his political jabs.  He would lurch out on stage smeared with wine playing the Emperor – Cleon.  It didn’t go over well with Cleon. . . . . The first joke book was The Philogelos (“Laughter Lover”) “published” in the 4th Century A.D.  It was a collection of 264 jokes.  One depicts a chatty barber.  “How shall I cut your hair” he says to his customer.  “In silence” the man responds.  Some things don’t change. . . . .    

Joe Miller’s Joke Book

I always wanted to be a stand up comedian — but I just don’t have the legs for it. . . .

I love good jokes.  Comedy.  The Three Stooges (“are you kidding Petersen?”).  The Honeymooners.  Seinfeld.  I love to laugh.   Belly laugh.  The person I’d like most to have dinner with?  Aristophanes (see post of August 28, 2011).  My favorite funny movie?  “Planes Trains and Automobiles.”  Rent it.  Please!  Or maybe it’s “Airplane.”  Or “Young Frankenstein.”  Or “The Pink Panther.”  Humor is a great medicine (see post of July 28, 2011). 

While Aristophanes was the first stand up comedian in about 400 B.C., the first book of jokes wasn’t published until 1739.  It was Joe Miller’s Joke Book, then known as Joe Miller’s Jests or The Wit’s Vade-Mecum.  Joe Miller (1684-1738) was an English actor who played a large number of humorous/comedic parts.  When Miller died, a chap named John M0tley (1692-1750) published Joe Miller’s Jests in 1739.  It was a collection of contemporary and ancient witticisms.  The first edition had 247 numbered jokes. 

A famous teacher of Arithmetick who had long been married without being able to get his Wife with Child.  One said to her ‘Madam, your Husband is an excellent Arithmetician.’  ‘Yes, replies she, only he can’t multiply.'”   (That’s number 234) 

Joe Miller was referred to by Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843) (“Joe Miller never made such a joke as sending [the turkey] to Bob’s. . . .”). 

Maybe after I croak, someone will write a book “The Renaissance Hombre’s Joke Book.”  I have a card file full of them!  Yeah. . . . .   

Humor – the Best Medicine

On March 14, 2005, I delivered a paper to The Chicago Literary Club entitled “The Best Medicine” http://www.chilit.org/Petersen4.htm  The paper delved into the history of humor – from the Biblical Genesis 17:17, to (my favorite) the first stand up comedian – Aristophanes – “Old Baggy Pants” (448 B.C. to 385 B.C.) to “Heeere’s Johnny” Carson. 

In December 2001, the British Association for the Advancement of Science conducted a survey of the worlds funniest jokes.  After months of studious analysis (I wish I’d’ve been part of that group), they concluded that one joke was the funniest ever.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson pitch their tent while on a camping expedition.  In the middle of the night, Holmes nudges Watson awake and says:

Holmes:  Watson – look up and the stars and tell me what you deduce.

Watson:  Holmes, I see millions of stars and I wonder if some of them have planets like earth where there may also be life.

Holmes:  No, Watson – you idiot!  Someone has stolen our tent!