Recently I was invited to a birthday potluck for a friend’s significant other. When I arrived, I realized that most of the guests were close friends of the birthday boy and I had the privilege of observing an old group of friends reunite. While the idea of spending the night surrounded by people who I don’t really know usually intimidates me and quickly draws out the introvert in me, I’ve recently found myself committed to having a positive outgoing attitude to any situation I am thrown in. This attitude greatly helped in this instance and I spent most of the evening mingling and making small talk, you know, asking lots of what’s your name and what do you do type questions. That is when it happened. One of the friends, a medium height, curly-haired, mid-twenties gentleman who had driven all the way from Chicago to celebrate with his friends, burst out into laughter.
Now we all know that there are different levels of laughter. There is the polite chuckle that you give out of courtesy for the person making the joke. There is the sneer when someone particularly infuriating turns out wrong and you happen to be right. There is the somewhat louder laugh resulting from a regular run of the mill joke. Then, very rarely, there is the genuine, side jabbing, lung rasping, tear splitting laugh. It was this very laugh that came out of the guy. One of his friends had said something funny to him, and he could not control himself. He laughed incredibly loudly, as tears rolled down his cheek. He began to gasp and flashed an incredibly bright smile. What I found particularly interesting about this situation was everyone else’s reaction around him. All of his friends began to laugh along with him regardless of the fact that they didn’t hear the joke. A wave a smiles and chuckles spread through the room as though they were all watching the same show on a television. I even found myself smiling uncontrollably.
This got me to thinking, what is it about the genuine body-shaking laugh that brings out this infectious positive spirit in a room? I believe that the answer lies in the fact that the creator of the laugh, the person who can’t help but burst in the jollies, cannot be anything other than completely and totally himself. There is no room for ulterior motive, no goals, or prerogatives involved. This person is so completely engaged in the present moment that nothing else around him matters. Being witness to such raw human emotion during the course of regular life reminds us that the ability to stop and enjoy the moment still exists. No matter what problems or conflicts we may be experiencing in our lives, the hope remains alive that we can spend our lives living in that moment of euphoria. All we need is one glimpse of joy to be reminded that there were times in the past when we did experience joy, and that there will be times in the future that joy will come again. It lightens the experience of our day.
Even more interesting, after the laugh had died down, the room remained light and excited. A friend of the guy, still smiling leaned over and informed me that this laugh is very rare and is often a topic of conversation amongst the friends. Not only do they remember this guys laugh, but they try to bring it out of him whenever possible. Perhaps we all need to do more of this. Try to bring out the part of our friends and family that makes them shine the most; the part of their personality that enlightens the people around them. Imagine if we spent our days doing that for others, and others did that for us. These moments of joy would be more common and our days would be brighter; and frankly isn’t this is the ultimate goal to life, to live happily?