If We Can Laugh Together, Maybe We Can Last Together

I need a reasonably decent sense of humor to do the work I do, bringing people together across differences and helping people discover their capacities to affect positive transformation in their communities. I have to see the comedy in everything even if not all of it can be turned into a joke. That is because, laughter is the most effective natural tension reliever there is. And without it, I am sure that we would have not made any of the social progress that we’ve had up to this point.

This is isn’t to suggest that the circumstances that create the tensions in our societies are always immediately laughable. But, when taking a certain view, it is possible for many of us to realize that some of the tensions we create are avoidable. And once we know that something that creates discomfort is avoidable, our subconscious mind starts looking for a way out. For many, laughter is that way out.

When I was one of the pastors of an overwhelmingly White identifying congregation of many hundreds of people, I never shied away from the issues in our society that limit us from living into our highest ideals. And in addressing those issues, there was a tension that naturally built up. But, while acknowledging the importance of walking our talk and the necessity of putting ourselves in the situations that challenge our comfort, I learned early on that I had to do something to ease the medicine going down. So, at the recommendation of one of the parishioners who said to me, “If you’re going to be that heavy, you can at least throw in a couple jokes”, I started putting in at least two jokes per sermon. And you know what? It worked.

This is a lesson that I still carry with me in all of my speaking and personal engagements. To the degree that I can, I do my best to use laughter constructively and respectfully in the service of deeper and more authentic relating. Through many encounters over the years, I have come to see that most of us want the same things in life. We just disagree on the best path to getting there. But, because we’ve created a system based on lack and extraction, we have a tendency to think that what stands between us and a world where we can thrive is whoever we’ve become convinced is on the “other side” of our concerns. However, when we laugh together, we see into a world where–at least for a moment–there is no other side.

That’s why every day, I choose to look at the world around me and see possibilities for us to create systems and structures where human flourishing is normative. I help facilitate this by taking seriously different perspectives while reminding myself that we have everything it takes to be the people we’ve been waiting for despite some of assertions of the contrary. My hope with the work I do is to help make it easier for folks to choose the same through modeling that choice and inviting folks to take relational risks in order to discover that other people’s experiences are not a denial of our own.

Below is an example of me taking a relational risk by doing some standup for only the second time in 23 years. When I was invited to try my hand at it, I decided to use the responsibility of speaking publicly to challenge some our social constructs using laughter. Using the principles I mentioned above, I created the conditions for folks to think as they laughed. This accomplished by calling up the pressure that we already live with and giving them a pathway to release that pressure through the channel of laughter. In many ways, I saw this opportunity to perform stand up as my chance to test out some of these relational theories. And as you’ll see in the video it worked. My plan now is to leverage this more in service of others with the intent of proving to some people that if we can laugh together, maybe we can last together.

If you are someone who also is looking to deepening your relationships across difference and received anything from this post, I invite you to reach out to me and set up a time to connect. Because the more of us working together intentionally, the better it is for everyone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s