2010.09.29 Ha, ha, ho ho ho

Written by David Green.

The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.” -Mark Twain

By DAVID GREEN

I watched a video of a ritual in India where babies are thrown off a temple in order to bring good health and fortune.

They drop about 50 feet onto a sheet held by a circle of men. There’s one person below—perhaps the father—who catches the child after the first bounce and whisks it away. Then the next baby is tossed.

Good luck indeed. Supposedly there have been no fatalities in 500 years of the practice.

I read about an Indian man who claims to transfer divine energy through his feet. He claims to cure young children of respiratory ailments by standing on their necks. He’s been arrested.

Another man claims to cure any ailment, including cancer, by beating the patient. Kicks, punches, standing on the head—he says he has special healing powers that are delivered through physical violence.

Oddly enough, all of his patient/victims are women. He’s not in jail only because he managed to leave town when the police were on the way.

So it comes with great relief to talk about the Laughing Guru. There have probably been many laughing gurus over the centuries, but it’s Dr. Madan Kataria who caught my attention recently in a New Yorker magazine article.

Kataria teaches people to laugh, not that there’s much to learn. But he wants you to laugh when there’s really not much to laugh about, so it does take a little study.

He doesn’t want people to rely on humor to laugh, so instead they practice fake laughter. That might seem a little silly, but that’s the point. It gets silly enough that sooner or later, everyone is laughing for real.

There are many splinter laugh groups and there’s even a yogi in California who claims that he started laugh yoga (just ask his Hollywood agent).

Dr. Kataria can laugh the others off. He’s the leading laugher, and though he has a staff of only nine people and an annual budget of about $60,000, he’s led the formation of thousands of laughter clubs in 66 countries.

There’s no fee. There are no rules. Just stop in and laugh for a while.

Kataria was trained as a physician, but never had a successful practice. At one point he started a magazine to give medical advice and he planned to write a story about Norman Cousins who claimed to have laughed his way out of a degenerative disease. If laughter is so good, Kataria thought, why not start laughter clubs?

He went out the next morning asking people to laugh with him. Instead, they laughed at him or just declined. He came up with four men who got together and told jokes. The group grew to 50 people in a week.

They soon ran out of good jokes and turned to dirty jokes. It wasn’t going as the doctor envisioned, so he told the club that tomorrow they would laugh without jokes.

He read something from an American writer about going through the motions of happiness, like the power of positive thinking. That would serve as a start, Kataria thought, and it worked.

There’s no strong science behind the connection of laughter and health, but there are hints that it’s a good relationship. The best that can be shown so far is that laughter can briefly relieve physical pain, although scientists don’t know why it works.

Kataria says your body doesn’t know if laughter is real or fake. It works either way.

I remember thinking several years ago—probably after I read about Cousins—that I should wake up laughing. I needed to hang something from the ceiling over my bed so I would see it the first thing in the morning, but I never came up with the right item. Maybe a laughter club would do the trick.

I sat down next to my wife on the couch last week and started in with Kataria’s “ha, ha, ho ho ho” and making silly faces. We laughed a little, but Colleen wasn’t having it. She told me later it was actually a little frightening, a little demonic.

“Fake doesn’t matter,” I reminded her, but she quickly—and with no humor—said, “I don’t believe that.”

It looks as though I’ll be laughing alone, and that really seems demonic.

  • Front.pokemon
    LATEST CRAZE—David Cortes (left) and Ty Kruse, along with Jerred Heselschwerdt (standing), consult their smartphones while engaging in the game of Pokémon Go. The virtual scavenger hunt comes to life when players are in the vicinity of gyms, such as Stair District Library, and PokéStops such as the fire station across the street. The boys had spent time Monday morning searching for Pokémon at Wakefield Park.
  • Front.drum
    on your mark, get set, drum!—Drew Joughin (black shirt), Maddox Joughin and Kaleea Braun took the front row last week when Angela Rettle and assistants led the Stair District Library Summer Reading Program kids in a session of cardio drumming. The sports and healthy living theme continued yesterday with a Mini Jamboree at Lake Hudson State Park arranged by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Next week’s program features the Flying Aces Frisbee show.
  • Girls.on.ride
    NADIYA YORK and Aniston Valentine take a spin on the Casino, one of the rides offered at Wakefield Park during Morenci’s Town and Country Festival. This year’s festival remained dry but with plenty of heat during the three-day run. Additional photographs are inside this week’s Observer.
  • Front.softball
    Angela Davis (2) and teammate Allison VanBrandt break into a jig after Morenci's softball team won its third consecutive regional title.
  • Front.art.park
    ART PARK—A design created by Poggemeyer Design Group shows a “pocket art park” in the green space south of the State Line Observer building. The proposal includes a 12-foot sculpture based on a design created by Morenci sixth grade student Klara Wesley through a school and library collaboration. A wooden band shell is located at the back of the lot. The Observer wall would be covered with a synthetic stucco material. City council members are considering ways to fund the estimated $125,000 project and perhaps tackling construction one step at a time.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.soccer.balls
    BEVY OF BALLS—Stair District Library Summer Reading Program VolunTeens, including Libby Rorick, back left and Ty Kruse, back right, threw a dozen inflatable soccer balls into the crowd during a reading of “Sergio Saves the Game.” The sports-themed program continues on Wednesdays through July 27.
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  • Front.drum
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