As someone whose job it is to inject levity and lightness into the world, I am aware of the good it can bring. I am also aware of how vital it is that this levity be connected to the concerns of people and not some type of frivolous exercise in empty laughter. These past days I’ve been meditating on what it means to share humor in these challenging times. On the need for respect, empathy and compassion with all that we are dealing with.
In seeking wisdom around ‘levitas gravitas,’ I am often reminded of Bernie Glassman’s 3 tenets for peacemaking, ‘Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action.’ These tenets are a great guide for an appropriate method of dealing with these times. That one starts in a place of not-knowing is so vital. Most of us are facing strong challenges that we are not necessarily sharing openly.
Any impulse to share humor, to invite levity into a situation that could use some lightening is certainly a generous offer. However, what about those on the receiving end? Are they wishing for humor right now? Are they even open to being in connection? How very important for the offerer to have their listening acutely tuned! Witnessing, listening will most likely give you the appropriate strategy of action. Leading with lightness rather than strong humor might well be a good initial strategy in these difficult times.
Yet I bring up these tenets for another reason, because Bernie would talk about the importance of Bearing Witness to the Joys And Suffering. There is a plethora of news reports about the suffering, it’s everywhere one looks. Yet what about the joys? If all we focus on is the suffering, how out of balance do we become? Yes it’s vital to bear witness to the joys in and of life as well, hopefully in equal measure. They need to be present in order for us to keep our equilibrium. Every time that I think that offering levity might be disrespectful of the sorrow and suffering that many are facing, I am reminded of Bernie’s words, of how important it is that we invest in the joy as well.
Yes we need to laugh, yet not just about anything. We need to laugh about the circumstances we are facing so we might grok (or see) a deeper meaning in them. The goal is not to chase the blues away, but to embody them and fill them with a sense of lightness. Thing is, this is not a one time exercise but rather a continuous cycle of recognizing and accepting the problems, investigating how we are feeling about them and re-investing in making small steps in a positive direction. It’s easier said than done, that’s for sure.