The root of all thought stems primarily from one simple mental function, which is to compare and contrast. It’s the old game, “one of these is not like the other,” and as we get older our abilities to do this become more refined.
Popular culture trends with things like memes (which I am a huge fan of), but it all goes back to the same sets of base thoughts and processes. It all seems very simple, and as I work at my wife’s day care, I see young minds working on this idea at their varying levels. Working with children, ranging from infants to school agers, keeps me recognizing human nature at this very basic levels, because children just haven’t developed the skills of concealment that often attends adulthood.
Today, one child relieved himself by evacuating the excess trapped gas in his bowels and all the other children exploded with laugher. It didn’t strike me as humorous, instead it was another “teachable moment”, where I had to tell the little boy to say “excuse me” and use his manners. All of the children kept looking back and forth at one another, searching for approval from each other, to continue roaring with laugher. With great effort, I was finally able to quell the violent storm of laughter, but it got me thinking. Humor seems to be very relative to surroundings and a social association stemming from a strong desire for acceptance (hence the children looking at each other).
This piqued my curiosity about whether I would have a sense of humor, or even sarcasm, if I was stranded alone on a desert island (or other such remote location). Honestly, I’m not sure if I would. Without the encouragement of people in a society, I’m not confident that there would be much need. I think sarcasm and humor are a social construct stemming from a strong sense to belong. During my time as a corporate trainer, I would mold the management teams and through that grooming process the tone of the entire company was solidified in their mind. If I acted unprofessional, by making fun of our clients, or letting the phone ring off the hook, this would be the attitude and practices that they would emulate. This is because I was the representative of the company to them, the liaison between upper management, and they wanted to conform to that social structure.
In personal situations, I demonstrate to my own children how we are to behave on a daily basis. I teach that we always do our chores and get our work done before we play and keep a sober disposition about ourselves regarding most all things. Then, in professional situations, I switch hats and am the friend, the confidant, who never gossips and holds things in confidence when asked to. I remember birthdays, use my manners, and work hard to meet deadlines. I laugh when socially acceptable and comfort those in need, but above all I try to remain constantly respectful.
I understand that we need release from stress and humor is a great way to do that. Laughter is healthy, and acts as the lubercation that oils the gears of our social machine. We need humor and modern clever sarcasm, but we also need limits. Without a teacher at daycare, a corporate trainer who takes the work serious, we could easily lose ourselves in a mocking reduction of harmful laughter. There are many protections, under the law (which is another social construct), that helps us to stay in line, so, we aren’t perceived as picking on others for things that “don’t look like the other.” So, humor is ever-evolving and takes constant effort in order to appeal to the target audience. This is why comedians are constantly working on their material; one bad joke can cause irreparable harm to their reputation and social career.
The conclusion I reached was to use humor as sparingly as possible when you’re working. I’ve never seen someone get fired for failing to laugh at a raunchy joke at the office. On the flip side, I have seen people get terminated for participating in an inappropriate joke, and that is no laughing matter.