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Time to take a ‘joyology’ test

Posted: September 27, 2012 7:41 p.m.
Updated: September 28, 2012 5:00 a.m.

You might not be finding much to laugh about these days.

The economy’s still struggling to gain traction. Our two presidential candidates are pummeling each other unmercifully. The polar ice caps are melting, and the price of gas is cruelly high.

In need of a little good cheer? 

Consider the following words about laughter, and then take a moment to ponder the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the late creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip.

In 1962, according to a newspaper article that ran some time ago, three schoolgirls at a boarding school in the African village of Kashasha, near Lake Victoria in what is now Tanzania, got the giggles. They laughed and laughed, and were unable to stop, and it was catching; other girls were caught in fits of the giggles, finally being sent home by exasperated administrators. The laughing epidemic spread until in 1964, it forced the closing of 14 schools.

Considered a disease that needed to be controlled at the time, this unbridled laughter is now celebrated in more than 1,000 clubs worldwide as a therapy to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system and perhaps even promote world peace.

The first club began in 1995 in India with Dr. Madan Kataria, known as the Giggling Guru. It was brought to America by Steve Wilson of Columbus, Ohio, described in the newspaper story as a “joyologist.”

“The human spirit always comes back to laughter,” says Wilson. He helped found the World Laughter Tour Inc., which now has its own web site, www.worldlaughtertour.com. The purpose, of course: to raise people’s spirits.

Laughter hasn’t always been universally acclaimed. Plato and Aristotle were wary of too much mirth. You can probably remember an elementary school teacher who might have rapped your knuckles for laughing out loud.

But good cheer has prevailed. Consider Viennese psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s words: “Laughter was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation at Auschwitz.”

You get the message. Laugh. Chuckle. Giggle. Don’t let worry overcome you. And when you’ve had a good belly laugh, take this little test, designed by Schultz, he of Linus and Charlie Brown fame. (You don’t have to actually answer the questions. Just read it, and you’ll get the message.

1. Name the 10 wealthiest people in the world.

2. Name the last five Heisman Trophy winners.

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.

4. Name 10 people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prizes.

5. Name the last half-dozen Oscar winners for best actress.

6. Name the last decade’s winners of the World Series.

How did you do? The point is, none of us remember all the headliners of yesterday. And these are no second-rate achievers. They were the best in their fields.

But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.

5. Think of a few people you enjoy spending time with.

6. Name a half dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.

Easier? 

There’s a lesson here, of course: the people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money or the most awards. They are simply the ones who care about you. So take a moment to pass this on to those people who have truly made a difference in your life.

And don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. After all,  it’s already tomorrow in Australia.

That was Schultz’ philosophy, and a fine one indeed.

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