Depression is a common malady. An article in the Catholic Times treats the need for humor in our world today. 1 out of 4 persons in life is faced, for some time, with a type of mental problem because of the harshness and overly competitive society in which we live. We have lost the ability to laugh.
In Korea, the people's traditional culture can't be explained without understanding the place of satire and jokes. Satire shows the irrationality of much of what we see in life and opens it up to mockery. An example would be the Bongsan Mask Dance in which the degenerate life of the aristocrats was exposed. The audience relaxes and gets the strength to endure reality. Laughter rather than the criticism gives a feeling of compassion to the objects of the laughter.
A director of a counseling center says: laughter helps us bring positive emotions out of the negative and these positive emotions make us happy.
Since 2001 the Ministry of Health and Welfare in its survey of the mental health of the country excepting the related diseases from nicotine and alcohol, depression was predominant.
In service work, we hear about the 'smile depression' on the outside a kindly smile but on the inside depression. A problem with those who are always dealing with the public.
A priest who works in counseling mentions that people in modern society, especially in Korea, are faced with political anxiety, recession, job hunting, job insecurity, polarization etc. which requires living in constant tension and stress. The development of the healing industry reveals this reality.
The clinical effects of laughter are well known with professional verification. A professor at Stanford University defines laughter as mental jogging. It clears the circulatory system, stimulates the digestion, lowers blood pressure, relieves muscle tension and stress, increases endocrine secretions.
In the Bible, there is no mention that Jesus smiled or laughed but Jesus who lived with all our human attributes would have laughed like everybody else. Jesus did give us the Beatitudes.
The French writer Didier Decoin went through the Bible verses for a book and showed where Jesus would have laughed: Jesu le Dieu qui riait. It is the laughter of Jesus restored by the imagination of a writer but it explains the validity of the context. A priest wrote a theology of laughter and argued for a need to recognize God's sense of humor and include it as an attribute of God.
The article concludes with the words of a priest who has worked in counseling for many years. "The Catholic Church has tended to focus on suffering and death in the whole of our religious life, including the liturgy. We must make the believers feel the joy of the gospel."
True laughter is only possible for those who hope. Laughter is another name for hope and for Christians always associated with the glory and joy of the resurrection. The 'Joy of the Gospel' when this is shown in our lives and we express this by our joy and laughter we are helping to overcome the frustrations and despair we see all around us.