Humor and Playfulness

While having a great sense of humor has many benefits, I think the best way to consider the virtue of humor is to think of it as being capable of having a sense of humor about life. I remember reading one opinion of a stand-up comic, that a comedian couldn't really be any good until he or she was at least thirty years old because younger people just haven't experienced enough of pain and struggle in life quite yet. While that may make some sense, it may seem odd that humor is most needed (and potentially prolific) when we are going through difficult times. Laughter is really just the sudden release of built-up nervous tension, and comedy is the skill of releasing, rebuilding, and releasing that tension over and over again—that's why laughter feels so good and why a good comedy is so enjoyable (although horror movies use the same technique, although through very different means).

It's important to have humor in your life simply because it is such a great way of releasing tension and the build-up of stress; laughter really does have strong health benefits. Having a sense of humor about your life acts as a tool for coping with painful or difficult situations (note that some forms of humor and sarcasm are either too selfish or do nothing but prolong hurt feelings, however).

Being playful also helps you find more enjoyment in everyday life. While the modes change, play still helps adults integrate with one another in the same way that it does for children. Playful (and appropriate) behavior can open the mind and soul og human beings to relate more meaningfully together—and it can simply be a useful ice-breaker. Being playful in our long-term relationships, like marriages, can often open the doors for closeness that just aren't easily available otherwise.

How does all of this relate to Transcendence? Humor and Playfulness free you up to experience joy and fulfillment in life. I don't think that humor by itself will give your life meaning, but it seems impossible to even take that road to fulfillment if you don't bring a sense of humor along the way.

Learning how to be funny is difficult to do (although possible to some degrees), but you can develop a stronger sense of humor toward life. This usually involves changing your attitude, changing your coping mechanisms, and just making yourself more open to laughter and play. Humor and laughter are going to be very different from individual to individual, but there are some activities you can try to make this virtue a more significant part of your life.


  • Stop Missing Opportunities: Some more serious-minded individuals might be tempted to redirect others to the more "serious" matters at hand, or might have a difficult time opening up to play with others. While being silly isn't always appropriate, strive to avoid shutting humorous moments out. If someone jokes with you, enjoy it with him or her before you talk about what's on your mind. If your spouse begins tickling you and you have an inkling of enjoyment, then play back for a little while before you say "cut it out!" Some of difficulties to experience humor with others can derive from shyness or a weakness in Social Intelligence (see Humanity).
  • Make Time for Comedies: If you usually enjoy dramas, or don't have a lot of time to read or enjoy media, take the time to enjoy some comedies—at the very least once a week. If you happen to have a lot of funny friends, maybe you should just enjoy more time with them.
  • As Long as You're Trying to See the Positive...: Hopefully you are trying to be a more positive person. While you are looking on the bright side, try to find humor in your daily struggles or difficulties as well. Sometimes this will be impossible, but you might be surprised how many annoying struggles can become significantly less stressful when seen through a more comedic lens.
  • Bring Back Teasing Into Your Relationships: It's possible you are in a romantic or long-term relationship with someone you used to be playful with, but don't currently enjoy that sort of intimacy. You can try to consciously return this element back into these relationships. If successful, this can be very rewarding.

Your Record

If you stifle a moment of humor, or feel guilty about finding humor in some usually serious subject or event, then mark yourself at "fault". This is a very subjective topic compared to most virtues, so while sometimes humor will be inappropriate, try to judge yourself fairly and err on the side of humor while focusing on this trait. Choose a goal from the activities above and judge whether or not you've met this goal at mark yourself accordingly.


Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.

Bill Cosby, American Comedian

If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.

Mahatma Gandhi, Indian Philosopher Renown for His Doctrine of Nonviolent Protest

It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously.

Oscar Wilde, Irish Dramatist, Novelist, and Poet

Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

George Carlin, American Stand-Up Comedian

Golden Mean

Mockery, Irony, Sarcasm

Recommended Reading

Nine Thousand Miles To Kansas: Finding Humor Amid the Potholes Along the Road of Life — by Eleanor Scown

This book is a memoir about a Californian who is transplanted in Kansas for her husband's job. She believes in finding humor in everyday life, and this memoir reflects that attitude.

The Psychology of Humor: An Integrative Approach — by Rod A. Martin

According to the author, "the main purpose of this book is to provide an integrative view of theory and research findings in all areas of the psycology of humor, with one chapter devoted to each branch of the discipline (cognitive, biologic, personality, developmental, clinical, etc.)."

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

Life is not a tragedy, it is a comedy. To be alive means to have a sense of humor. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh