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LAUGHING, Continued: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Does humor return us to childlike joy?

“If you don't want your dog to have bad breath, do what I do: Pour a little Lavoris in the toilet.” -- JAY LENO

"IN MANY WAYS, the cultivated mind is like that of a child.” writes Meng.

“To a young child, almost everything is novel and exciting. For example, babies are born without full control of their hands. Babies, 3 to 6 months old, who have just gained full control over their hands are known to spend a lot of time marvelling at [their] hands. We take it for granted, but to a baby, simply being able to manipulate one's own hands is novel and exciting.

“There are at least two reasons why adults tend to be quite unhappy. One is that adults tend to take things for granted --their ability to control their own hands, for example!. Another is that adults tend to be disconnected from their own inner joys. A child, for example, might find the feel of warm chopsticks in one's mouth on a cold day, quite a fun experience. An adult doesn't feel that way because she is disconnected from the simple joys of warm chopsticks.”

In his book “Peace is Every Step,” Thich Nhat Hanh wrote something in line with Meng’s insight. In a section titled “Cookie of Childhood” he says:
“When I was four years old, my mother used to bring me a cookie every time she came home from the market.” He then advises readers: “Eating mindfully is a most important practice of meditation. We can eat in a way that we restore the cookie of our childhood. The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”

Meng goes on to say:

“A cultivated mind is one that is able to maintain some high degree of Mindfulness. In such a state of mind, one is more able to be fully in-touch with one's experience and oneself. Such a person is, hence, much more likely to experience simple joys, the way a child might. In other words, that guy is like a kid. Things around him, especially things that adults tend to take for granted, tend to be amusing and interesting to him. That simple joy often rubs off on other people. That's why people tend to think of him as being humorous.”

Ken Wilber in his book The Atman Project notes many of the same similarities that Meng wrote about. Regarding differences between the joyful, infantile, oceanic state and that of mystic union, Wilber writes:

“The infant-pleromatic fusion is pre-subject/object differentiation, which means the infant cannot distinguish subject from object. The mystic union (sahaj samadhi) is trans-subject/object, which means that it transcends subject and object, while remaining perfectly aware of that conventional duality, much as language transcends sensory awareness without obliterating it.”

Thus, the re-invigorated ability to enjoy simple pleasures is clearly part of an expanding awareness and is not a regression.

In The Little Zen Companion, there is this wisdom about seeing things in the manner of a child, with reference to the great Japanese haiku poet from the 17th Century, Matsuo Basho:

Basho revered nature, children, the moon. He found the universe in the smallest detail, which he saw with the innocent eye of a child, and spent his later years on often lonely pilgrimages across Japan. “Old Pond,” his best-known haiku has been interpreted as a kind of koan, the frog disclosing the final meaning of reality:

Old pond,
frog jumps in--

[A footnote: Few English-language readers of this haiku are aware that in Japanese the words frog and return are homonyms. So, a part of “Old Pond”’s humor and profundity is wrapped up in a pun.]

PAGE 5: A solemn antidote

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