Are jokes dangerous?

Zahid Ali

 The new man in town told Mullah Nasrudin, “I have come out there to make an honest living.” “Well, “ said the Mulla, “There’s not much competition.”

Be serious. Pose sober. Don’t laugh too much. All such crap is thrust upon us by holier than thou serious people around us. Jokes make them afraid and confused. They always look for talk shows and lectures of seriousness.

Jokes are dangerous. That’s why serious people don’t touch them. But the jokes are lovely. Jokes have a tremendous beauty if you can allow them to enter into your very innermost core. No talk show can reach there, because when you are hearing a talk show you start falling asleep. It is very difficult to keep oneself awake hearing a talk show for the simple reason that talk shows are serious, dry, like the desert. How long can you look at the desert? Sooner or later you will start yawning because it is the same desert going up to the very horizon, on all sides, it is all sand and sand and sand, and the scene is exactly the same. The talk shows are exactly the same; they are desert like. They create sleep: they function like lullabies. If you suffer from sleeplessness, then listening to a few sermons by any serious talker will be very helpful. Just listen to a few talk shows; you are bound to fall asleep. When all tranquilizers fail, talk shows work.

That’s what the hypnotists go on doing: they simply repeat certain words. Anything repeated, again and again, creates such boredom that you have to escape from it. And the easiest escape is into sleep.

Mulla Nasruddin suffered very much from sleeplessness. All efforts failed — all the tranquilizers, the sleeping pills; nothing worked. His sons were getting very worried. Finally, they found a hypnotist who said, “Don’t worry, I will come tonight.” And he came, and he started simply repeating: “You are falling asleep…”
Nasruddin was lying down on the bed with closed eyes, the lights were out, and the hypnotist was repeating again and again, “You are falling asleep… your eyelids are becoming heavier, heavier, heavier… you are falling asleep, falling asleep, falling asleep… deep sleep is taking over…”
Nasruddin started snoring. The hypnotist tiptoed out of the room.
The sons were very happy. They handed him double his fees, thanked him very much. They went in to see. Nasruddin opened one of his eyes and said, “Has that idiot left yet or not? He would have killed me, hence I had to pretend! That snoring was just false. I was faking it so that he would leave me!”

Talk shows are boring. That’s why only old people who are already dead listen to them. You can see them watching them at any place.

Jokes are tremendously important in a way. Jokes are not simple phenomena; they are really mysterious, their mechanism is mysterious. You don’t know how a joke works, how it goes deep into your depths, how it brings laughter to you, how it brings wakefulness to you. The mechanism is mysterious.

A joke functions almost like a sexual orgasm. It is not accidental that many jokes are concerned with sex. Jokes as such are basically sexual for the simple reason that the joke creates a build-up of energy in you, a great curiosity about what is going to happen, because a joke is a joke only when something unexpected happens, when it takes such a sudden turn that logically you could not have conceived it; it was inconceivable. And it takes the turn so quickly and so suddenly that it does not give you time enough to think about it. Because there is no time to think. The mind needs time. The joke goes on towards the south and then suddenly turns towards the north: your mind goes on moving towards the south, but the joke has taken a turn towards the north so suddenly that the mind halts. In that very halt, there is an experience of silence, of meditation.

The same happens in sexual orgasm: certain energy is built up in you; a certain tension is built up in you. You go on moving upwards, upwards, upwards, and then comes a sudden relaxation, a sudden release. It is so sudden, it happens in a single moment, the mind stops, the mind disappears for a moment. It is not conceivable for the mind. The mind needs time.

If you understand the joke you will miss the whole point. If you can understand where it is going, what the logical end of it will be, then it will not be a joke for you. Whatsoever you understand from the very beginning is not going to be the end; the end is going to be absolutely unpredictable. That’s the beauty of a joke; it shocks you, shakes you, it wakes you up. It is impossible to remain asleep when a beautiful joke is being told.

Jokes shatter many things in you. You must be thinking radical change is serious. It is not. It is rooted in playfulness, in non-seriousness; sincere, of course, but serious, never. Radical change is laughter, love. It is not renunciation, it is rejoicing.

The unexpected turn, that is the secret of a joke, the revelation. You are expecting something and it doesn’t happen; what happens is so totally absurd and yet has the logic of its own. It is ridiculous and yet not illogical. That’s what suddenly becomes laughter in you. You see the ridiculousness of it, and also the logic of it. It is unexpected, if it is expected, then it doesn’t bring laughter to you. If you know the joke then it doesn’t bring laughter to you, because now you know, everything is expected.

The mind lives logically with expectations; laughter is something that comes from the beyond. The mind is always guessing what is going to happen, groping. And something happens which is absolutely contrary to its expectations: it simply stops for a moment. And that is the moment when the mind stops when laughter comes from your belly, a belly laugh. Your whole body goes into a spasm, it is orgasmic. A good laugh is tremendously radical.

There are millions of people whose tears have dried. Their eyes have lost luster, depth. Their eyes have lost water because they cannot weep, they cannot cry, tears cannot flow naturally. If laughter is crippled, tears are also crippled. Only a person who laughs well can weep well. And if you can weep and laugh well, you are alive. The dead man cannot laugh and cannot weep. The dead man can be serious. Watch, go and look at a corpse, the dead man can be serious in a more skillful way than you can be. Only an alive man can laugh and weep and cry.

These are moods of your inner being, these are climates, enriching. But by and by, everybody forgets. That which was natural in the beginning becomes unnatural. You need somebody to poke you into laughter, tickle you into laughter, only then do you laugh. That’s why so many jokes exist in the world.

But we also find a term, “wicked jokes” around us, on media, social media. It is said: don’t gossip about people with a deliberate intention to hurt them, because that is not really a joke, that is not fun, that is not humorous. An intelligent man with a sense of humor cannot be really against jokes. He is against hurting people. What he is saying is going deeper into the psychology of the joke, into the rationale behind the joke. It is what Sigmund Freud did one thousand years later. Sigmund Freud thinks that when you joke about somebody there is every possibility that you are aggressive, that you have anger, that in a vicarious way you are pretending to be humorous but you really want to offend.

But that cannot be decided by anybody else from the outside; only you can be the judge. If there is a deliberate effort in your mind to offend somebody, to hurt somebody if it is violence disguised as humor, avoid it. But if it is not violence but just a pure sense of humor, the sense of fun, the sense of not taking life seriously, not taking life too seriously, then there is no problem.

Jokes can be just pure humor without any violence in them. Even though sometimes on the surface one may think there is some violence, the point is not what others think; the point is what your intention is. It is a question of intention. You can smile with an intention to offend, then smiling becomes a sin. Anything can become a sin if deep down the desire is to do violence. And anything can become virtue if deep down there is a desire to create more joy in life, more laughter in life.

There is nothing more valuable than laughter. Laughter brings you closest to prayerfulness. In fact, only laughter is left in you when you are total. In everything else you remain partial, even in lovemaking, you remain partial. But when you have a really heartfelt belly laugh, your total being, the physiological, the psychological, the spiritual, vibrates in one single tune; all parts vibrate in harmony.

The joke is a subtle psychological way to tickle you. You have to be tickled so sometimes you forget your religiousness, you forget all your philosophies, theories, systems, and you fall down to earth. You got to come back to the earth, again and again, otherwise, you will tend to become serious, more and more serious and seriousness is a cancerous growth.

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