Why it always helps.
12.02.2012 35 °F
Yesterday while I was skiing at Keystone Mountain in Colorado, I had the great fortune of skiing 6 inches of white fluffy Colorado powder under crisp and clear bluebird skies. I also had the great misfortune of being skiing with my good friend who speared a bamboo obstacle marker with his lower lip, piercing his lip and lacerating part of his gum line. In this process, I noticed a few things. Most importantly, I'm beginning to realize the significance of humor and smiling in life. It seemed simple, but I wanted to take a quick few minutes to write down my thoughts on the topic of humor, and why I think it could save your life someday, too.
A few weeks ago I finished one of the best books I've ever read, and probably my favorite too, called Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. If your like me and enjoy the riskier adventures in life, you know, Colorado 14ers, 3 week backpacking trips, skiing chutes and cliffs, and generally accepting flying by the seat of your pants sometimes, this book is for you. You'll learn from reading it why some people live in survival situations, and why some people die in them. One of the important things I learned from that book is the importance of humor, which I think also carries over into the simple notion of smiling. He talks about how humor can at times help you survive because it forces you to look at your situation and laugh. It keeps the nerves from focusing on the rough situation that you're in or the tough road out that lies ahead in a survival situation. You're less likely to realize the dire situation that's around you, although that is important, and more likely to think normally and find a way out. It also has the effect of restoring confidence, because it puts your mind on other things. Having learned this from the book, I've noticed this in a number of things I've seen since finishing the book.
First, I read an article in one of my international studies classes on feminism, which knowing that topic can be rough at times, but it was on the use of terminology with missiles in the military and their so often used phallic object titles. While the purpose of the article was to point out masculinity in the military for a feminist, I couldn't help but notice the other parts of the article which hinted at the use of humor. The use of these titles often lightens the subject of missiles when working on an object designed to kill thousands of people. It takes engineers' minds off the idea that their creation may someday massacre thousands of people. By turning these objects into essentially sex jokes, the subject is lightened.
I also had the pleasure of going to a private screening of the new movie Act of Valor last week which comes out in a couple weeks. (Aside: Go see that movie. It's phenomenal, real, and one of the best films I've seen in a long time.) During the scene before the first mission, the seals are all in a plane getting ready to sky dive into the enemy's area. Obviously, stress levels are high. You're the world's elite fighters, sworn to never speak of the tasks you accomplish, and you're about to go to battle with the world's most wanted men, risking your life. Before jumping, one of the seals gives another guy a hard time about his ugly haircut he needs to fix when he gets home. Everyone laughs, and smiles. They shoot jokes at each other about training back home and previous missions. Everyone laughs. Humor.
And lastly, yesterday I was skiing when my friend speared a bamboo pole with his lower lip, causing him to spit blood everywhere. By the time I hiked 20 feet back up the hill and go to him, there was blood all over the snow in front of him - not a pretty sight. I took care of him until ski patrol arrived with the first aid skills I have, and then let patrol take over from there. We got him bandaged up, and as ski patrol was putting him in the sled, he gave me a high five. I laughed and said, "You're obviously gonna be alright". We both kind of laughed at it, and after that I told him, who hates GoPros and ContourCams because he thinks they're dumb, if only you had one of those on we could watch this over and over again tonight over beers. He laughed and looked up at me and said, "Hey, you shut up now!". We both laughed again and then I skied down with patrol to the clinic to get him all taken care of. Again, humor, laughing, and smiling. Yeah, there was blood all over the snow, and he was obviously in pain, but humor always seems to help.
The lesson I've learned from all of this is that humor helps to alleviate the pressure of high stress or emergency situations. So, whether you're the next Navy Seal dropping into a high profile mission, or you're in a survival situation, or you're in some other emergency high stress situation, try to laugh and smile. Focus on the situation and what's at hand, sure, but don't forget to save room for humor. It lightens the mood, helps you stay calm, and relieves a little bit of stress. I've heard people say you should smile because it's good for you, and the more and more I think about it and pay attention to it, the more I think it's true. So the next time you're stressed, try to bring in some humor, laugh, and smile for a little bit - things are going to be alright. And speaking of the use of phallic objects, I have a photo from study abroad that I keep with me at all times because it always makes me laugh no matter what I'm going through. I would encourage everyone else out there to do the same, because it works. That's all I've got for now, and hopefully you've picked up or thing or two. As always, praise and criticism are equally welcome!