Way back when I was 24 years old, and a newly fledged graduate student in philosophy at Boston University, the very first paper I ever wrote for the professor destined to became my mentor was entitled “The Status and Function of ‘Trivial Statements’ in Philosophy.” Even though I felt weird telling him I wanted to pay attention to “trivial statements,” he didn’t think the topic I chose was weird at all! Which made me wonder, who IS this professor? (As I could have asked, who am I, outwardly such good, uptight graduate student, to take up such a peculiar topic?) This paper turned out to be the initiation of my descent into the underworld of investigating all my philosophical assumptions, which in turn ended up eviscerating the bedrock of my childhood indoctrination, and thus, my so-called “sanity.”
For that class, I was already bored with the dry technical analysis that still passes for (academic) “philosophy” even now, 50 years later. I wanted to understand why we tend to call some statements “trivial.” In other words, not worth talking about because obvious. But what makes them “obvious,” i.e., a matter of “common sense”? For it was authentic common-sense I was after; and six years later my PhD dissertation included a critique of academic philosophy as the abstract version of cultural “common-sense” in which we have no senses in common. Which, I argued, is precisely the problem. The Cartesian world-view which splits the mind from the body, and ourselves from each other, has got to die.
I’m still saying that. And I’m still interested in the status and function of so-called “trivial” statements, for example, this one:
“LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE.”
Ho hum. You think. Everybody knows that. It’s common-sense! Well, yeah, and it’s easy to let that statement trip off your tongue with a shrug of the shoulders. But have you ever really thought about the profound meaning embedded in this so-called trivial remark?
Because laughter IS the best medicine!! There’s simply nothing like a good belly laugh to loosen up the physiology of the body/mind to the point where stress, and in the prevailing Covid realm, F.E.A.R., however briefly, dissolves. Excerpts:
Studies have shown that laughter boosts the immune system and triggers the release of pleasure-inducing neurochemicals in the brain. The immune system, which contains special cells that are responsible for defending the body against infection, have been shown to increase during the act of laughing. In the central nervous system, the brain releases powerful endorphins as a result of laughing. Endorphins are natural, morphine-like compounds that raise the pain threshold, produce sedation and induce euphoria (commonly called a “natural high”.)\
- During a laugh, respiration, heart rate and blood pressure temporarily rise. This causes oxygen to surge through the bloodstream that then results in lower blood pressure.
- Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
- Laughter reduces pain and allows toleration of discomfort. Laughter reduces blood sugar levels, increasing glucose tolerance in diabetics and non-diabetics alike.
- Laughter relaxes the whole body, relieving tension and stress. It has been shown that following a good, hearty laugh, muscles in the body are relaxed for up to 45 minutes afterward.
- Laughing burns calories – laughter is sometimes referred to as “inner jogging”. A hearty laugh gives the muscles of the face, chest, shoulders, stomach and diaphragm a good workout.
By these measures, JP Sears is perhaps our most talented personal and cultural healer as well as one of our most articulate and observant body language experts and social commentators.
Here are three highly current vignettes. Get ready to let ‘er rip!