Laughter is part of the universal human vocabulary. All members of the human species understand it. Unlike English, French, or Swahili, one does not have to learn to speak it. We " re born with the capacity to laugh. One of the remarkable things about laughter is that it occurs unconsciously. You don't decide to do it.

While we can consciously inhibit it, we don't consciously produce laughter. That is why it's very hard to laugh on command or to fake laughter. It provides powerful, uncensored insights into our unconscious. It simply bubbles up from within us in certain situations. We also know that laughter is a message that we send to other people. We know this because we rarely laugh when we are alone.

Laughter is social and contagious. We laugh at the sound of laughter itself. A whole room can erupt in laughter when actually only about a third of the people may know the joke. That is the power of laughter. Most laughter is not about humor; it is about relationships between people. When we laugh, we " re often communicating playful intent.

So laughter has a bonding function within individuals in a group. As Victor Borg e once said, "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." It's often positive, but it can be negative too. There's a difference between "laughing with" and "laughing at." People who laugh at others may be trying to force them to conform or casting them out of the group. Laughter puts things into a new perspective. Everything that makes us laugh is typically something we relate to, but by laughing our brain is opened and sees everything in a different way. Laughter has the remarkable power of making an object come up close, of drawing it into a zone where one can finger it familiarly on all sides, turn it upside down, inside out, and break open its external shell.

Laughter demolishes fear and piety before an object, before the world; making of it an object of familiar contact and clearing the ground for an absolutely free investigation. Laughter provides us with a window we would not normally see. It makes us see the good in every bad situation and brings people closer together. Without laughter the world would indeed be a bleak place.