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The Importance of Laughter:
Rediscovering Humor in a Cynical World
I used to pride myself on my wonderful sense of humor, but having awakened to the endless suffering of animals, it has become increasingly difficult for me to find amusement in the world. Instead, I find myself growing cynical and angry. I don't want to feel this way, but I'm not sure what I can do about it. The rare times that I do indulge myself in laughter, I feel guilty. Do other vegans feel this way and is there any advice you can offer?
As vegans, the issues that we deal with on a daily basis and those that are closest to our hearts are of a serious nature. We are concerned not only with revering life but with ending the suffering of all sentient beings. Considering the magnitude of such an undertaking, it is no wonder it seems overwhelming at times. Once we become aware of the cruelties that surround us, it is hard, if not impossible, to shut our eyes to them. Often they cast a shadow over the good that abides simultaneously, clouding our view of reality and truth and distorting our perspectives.
The joys and ironies of life that once made us laugh still exist; it is our outlook that has changed. Before we had acknowledged or had even been aware of the barbaric treatment of animals, their suffering endured. It didn't vanish just because we were unable to see it. The same is true of humor. It is still there; we just need to rediscover it.
Laughter is an essential component of good mental health. If we do not have humor in our lives, we become dour and bitter. Misery makes us (and others) miserable; happiness makes us (and others) happy. If we immerse ourselves solely in the sadness and suffering of the world, this is all that we will notice, and it is sure to bring us down. Not only is depression unproductive, it is harmful to ourselves and those in our midst. As difficult as it may be, we need to remember to lighten up and learn not to take ourselves, our mission, or our problems too seriously.
When you find yourself feeling morose or infuriated, observe what is instigating these feelings. If it is reading material, close the publication. If it is television, change the channel or turn the set off completely. If it is a Web site, close the page. If it is other people, separate from them temporarily or permanently, if necessary. If it is the culture at large, cultivate patience, understanding, and compassion for those who have not yet awakened. Take time every day for gladness and to find what there is to smile about. Seek out the simple beauty and miracles in nature and life itself. Read humorous literature, rent a funny movie, or go see a play or comedy show that will make you laugh. Get together with friends who are upbeat and have a good sense of humor. Enjoy yourself without holding back. A lack of humor will not inspire world peace or rescue more animals; it will only make us melancholy martyrs.
Humor enriches the spirit, eases tension, and makes us feel whole. Certainly, there is biting sarcasm and humor at the expense of others. This kind of "entertainment" does nothing to advance the vegan cause or spread good cheer. If we demean others in the course of trying to feel good, we also demean ourselves. But there is much to laugh about that does not injure, embarrass, or demoralize, and this kind of humor is uplifting and offers a healthy, sweet release.
Permit yourself to laugh and fully embrace your sense of humor. It will bring essential balance to your life and will make all that you accomplish more satisfying and all that you cannot achieve more bearable.
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