THIS WEEK IN PALESTINE: The Last Word “Laughter and Humour” March 2013 March 2, 2013

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No offence to our priests or to the religious community, but did you know that the name of the Pope between 461 and 468 AD was Pope Saint Hilarius? How hilarious! I’m just wondering how people addressed the guy: Your Eminence, Hilarius, or Your Beatitude, Hilarius? With a name like that, it should have been more like “Yo Hilarius,” with the hand gesture and all! He was also canonised as a saint for crying out loud! Disappointingly though, as it turned out, Pope Saint Hilarius was hardly funny and spent most of his time at church councils, synods, and strengthening papal control. Did you also know that the study of humour and laughter and its psychological and physiological effects on the human body is called gelotology? Seriously, where do people get these names from? I stuttered three times to get it right! Greek for laughter (gelos) or not, it’s still hard to pronounce.

I’m not sure whether it is because of the extensive research of people like Sigmund Freud, Nietzsche, and other big names in gelololololotology, such as Schopenhauer and Bergson, or it just feels natural, but we all know now that laughter and humour cause much relief, release tension, and are essentially therapy for human beings. Research, in fact, did teach us that not only are they a coping mechanism, but also beneficial to one’s health. A link between laughter and the healthy function of blood vessels was first reported back in 2005 by researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Centre. They noted that laughter causes the dilatation of the inner lining of blood vessels, the endothelium, and increases blood flow. Simply put, if you laugh a lot, you’ll reduce the chance of getting a heart attack!

There are thousands of spoken languages today and many more dialects, but laughter is universal and is understood by all. The smile as well is an internationally recognised expression denoting pleasure, sociability, happiness, or amusement. It is understood by everyone despite culture, race, or religion. Cross-cultural studies have shown that smiling is a means of communication throughout the world.

We know that laughter is not restricted to a particular social stature. In fact, I believe that poor people laugh more genuinely than rich people. Throughout the Middle East, it is probably the Egyptians who are generally known to be light-hearted and have a sense of humour. It is most definitely not us Palestinians! The best Egyptian comedy shows stem from simple folk living a simple life. Even in real life, one gets the impression that the average Egyptian person has a sense of humour and takes life light-heartedly. I pray that with the current conditions in Egypt, people will maintain their sanity and sense of humour. I also pray we Palestinians can learn to ease up a little. Irrespective of the cause, misery is misery; it’s how you deal with it that matters. Culture, naturally, plays a big role in shaping attitudes, but even with that, with a conscious effort from people in charge and professionals, things can be done to teach people how to cope with personal problems and to confront daily life under occupation.

A Frenchman, an Englishman, and a Palestinian were asked to write their dissertation on the African elephant. The Frenchman wrote about the luv life of the African elephant, the Englishman wrote about the meticulous daily life of the African elephant. The Palestinian handed in his dissertation entitled, “The African elephant and the question of Palestine!” Oh God!

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