As someone whose job it is to inject levity and lightness into the world, I am aware of the good it can bring. I am also aware of how vital it is that this levity be connected to the concerns of people and not some type of frivolous exercise in empty laughter. These past days I’ve been meditating on what it means to share humor in these challenging times. On the need for respect, empathy and compassion with all that we are dealing with. I’m calling this Levitas Gravitas.
In seeking wisdom around ‘levitas gravitas,’ I turn to Bernie Glassman’s 3 tenets for peacemaking, ‘Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action.’ These tenets are a great tool in uncertain times. Many of us are facing strong challenges where clear solutions are not in sight. How to deal? Especially as it becomes clear that no amount of thinking power is going to provide the ‘correct’ solution. When the rational brain can’t solve the issue at hand, trusting your heart, your intuition might well lead to a ‘solution.’ That is the essence of the the 3 tenets. How to do that? Starting in a place of not-knowing is vital. That means letting go of your knowledge, accepting that logic isn’t going to offer the pathway forwards.
It’s the same thing with humor. When you find yourself in a situation that could use some lightening up and an impulse to invite levity into a situation bubbles up, what to do? Your humorous impulse, a signal from the intuitive side, that humor will be a positive is often correct. Yet that is your point of view. What about those on the receiving end? Are they wishing for humor right now? Are they open to receiving your generous offer? This is where Bernie’s second tenet, Bearing Witness, comes into play. This is where you, the one offering, need to have your listening acutely tuned so you can ‘hear.’ What are you listening for? What levels of connection and reception are alive! Humor requires connection! Without that, the humor is bound to fall flat, or even worse, backfire. Taking that moment to bring your awareness to what kind of connection is alive, to listening-with all your senses- will most likely give you the appropriate line of action. If you don’t feel a strong connection, leading with lightness rather than strong humor might well be a great strategy, especially in challenging or tense situations.
I bring up these tenets for another reason. Bernie would talk about the importance of Bearing Witness to the Joys And Suffering. There is a plethora of news reports about the suffering, it’s everywhere one looks. Yet what about the Joys? If all we focus on is the suffering, how out of balance do we become? Yes, it’s vital to bear witness to the joys in life as well. Hopefully at least in equal measure to the suffering. The more we bear witness to the joys, the easier it is to maintain our equilibrium.
Sometimes, I think that offering levity might be disrespectful of the sorrow and suffering that many are facing. That is when I am reminded of Bernie’s words, of how important it is that we invest in the joy as well. When we are facing challenging times, laughter is a great healer. It is also a way to accept enough the circumstances we are facing, and surprisingly enough, this is when we start to see the pathway forward, and to see a deeper meaning in the steps we are taking.
So, when chasing the blues away doesn’t work, invite in a sense of lightness! As problems re-occur, often at the worst possible moment, it is helpful to recognize that this is not a one time exercise. It’s a practice. Yes, stepping into not-knowing/bearing witness/inviting lightness is certainly preferable to running on an infinite thinking loop to nowhere. How to get there from here? Practice!