by Sean Murphy
This is an appeal to silliness.
I've always liked making people laugh. From a narcissistic stand point, I can't ignore a lot of that comes from my need for attention. The great existential itch that is scratched by the positive feedback of laughter. It is my nicotine. (By that logic, I assume Chuckles are my nicotine gum, and a Curt Smile and a Nod is my vaping.)
But there is more to it than that. It's how I reach out. It's how I connect. I believe that's true for most of us. Becoming friends with someone, especially in a post-recess era, is difficult and hard to define. Are we friends, or just friendly co-workers? Are we drinking buddies now, or just two independent alcoholics enabling one another? Are we lovers about to spend an incredibly intimate night together, or did you bring me back to your apartment to murder me and hang my body in your walk in freezer? It's hard to say. But. When you laugh at a joke with someone, there is a little magic that happens. It happens a lot, so maybe you don't notice it quite as much anymore. But next time you laugh at a joke with someone, especially someone you are just getting to know, try to listen for it. The magic is this: you feel closer to that person. Instantly. It's as if there is loose rope around you both, and each laugh gives it a quick pull tighter. You can feel it, I promise.
Why does this happen? To laugh is to be vulnerable. It's to be open. You can't genuinely laugh while hiding your true self. It's impossible. You are 100% genuinely you when you laugh. That's why when your heart is broken, or you're grieving, it's not just hard to laugh -- it's downright scary. Because it opens you right up. It's why laughter leads to crying. Why crying leads to laughter. They open you up.
It becomes harder and harder to open up as we get older. And that's why making friends can be such a struggle. When you're a little kid, things are a bit more direct. You want to eat sand, you eat sand. You want to cry really loudly because you thought you were going to Chili's and you wanted that thick ass chocolate milk-shake with the sprinkles on it, but now you're just going to have salmon at home instead -- cry away. Want to play tag? Play tag. Dig in the ground for no reason? Dig to China, my wayward son. It takes roughly an hour to get a good read on a kid, and whether your personality matches up. With adults, this is much harder.
Dating is proof of this. Mainly it's harder because we've learned how to lie. We learn to lie because we are sitting in the playground eating sand when a girl with nice hair, cute smile, and rich parents with a pool in their backyard, walks up to you. She says, "Eating sand is gross. You are gross for eating sand." This lights up heretofore dormant chemical processes in your heart and brain, and you feel shame. Next time a new girl walks up to you, someone with a cool scooter, cute freckles, and a romantically extensive knowledge of the secret areas in Super Mario World, and says -- "Hey, are you the boy that likes sand?" You say: "No." And your life as a liar for social gains has begun.
-- QUICK Q&A --
“Q: Did you eat a lot of sand as a kid?
Q: Have you already forgotten this piece was supposed to be an advertisement for your web series, Sublets?
Q: OK. I only ask because you’ve written five paragraphs and you have not mentioned it once.
A: I know. We’re getting there. I think.”
-- END OF Q&A --
So we lie more as we grow older. We build up walls, and then we go outside looking for connection, only to be surprised that we can't find anyone. We say things like, "I think I'm actually getting to know him". We say that like it's not a strange thing to say. "I'm getting to know who she really is.", "Sure he seems nice, but I know what he's like deep down.". None of these seem strange, because we take it for granted that the people we meet are not who they say they are. We know the people that we meet are not implicitly who they say they are. When we first meet them, they are a projection of themselves. They are a construct built from blueprints designed by years of judgement and criticism. The person you met is not the real them, and you both know it.
But then something silly happens. And then you laugh. And then you're you.
"But Sean!", you cry, "Surely there are more intimate things. You're talking of laughter like it's the closest two people can be. What about a kiss, or sex, or trauma, or being in marching band together?"
Yes. You're right. If you have sex with someone, you're probably closer to them than the person you made a joke with earlier that day. And if you were both in the color guard together, yes, you are like siblings and would be expected to avenge the other's death, if it came down to it. But here is the thing about laughter. You can do it with everyone. It's not reserved for any special few.
You laugh with people you're not attracted to. With people that frustrate you. With people that hurt you. With people you have never met, and will never see again. You sit in a theater, all strangers, all silent, laughing together. That is important. It is so goddamn important. If we were to stop telling jokes and put an end to all silliness, we would be locking one of the few doors that still links us to the world outside our walls. It'd be harder to be human with someone else.
And that's why I tell jokes. It's because I want to be with you. I want you to see who I am, I want to know who you are. I want to be honest with you. And while sometimes that means very serious conversations, complete with shouting or tears, sometimes it's the opposite. We do a serious detriment to our psyche if we view our honest true self, ones exposed nature, as only our wounds and damages. Your true self is also you at play. It is you with a silly voice, or stupid costume. You trying to make others laugh, is just as open and beautiful and honest as any emotional or physical scar you can share. Never forget that part of being honest. It'll make the world seem tighter, as we pull that rope closer around us all.
Now. Eleven or so paragraphs in. For the few of you that remain. The pitch. I wrote something with some friends of mine. I'm very fortunate to have worked on this project for the past two years, and I want to share it with you. I want to make you laugh. If you can, watch it with someone. Laugh with them. The world will be a little better when you're done.
Thank you, and much love to you all.