Tolerance is a Joke

by Dr. Stuart Grauer on March 5, 2013

stuart.masai.techiesHere is the complete text of the 2013 Tolerance Day Keynote Address, delivered on March 1, 2013 to The Grauer School student body and faculty by Dr. Stuart Grauer.

I know you may have heard that tolerance is attainable in talking to rice. Forget it! Tolerance is not like a pretzel, either, despite earlier rumors around the School. Forget all that! Tolerance: It’s a joke.

When I was in eighth grade I said to my classmate Robin Nicosia: “You would be a good basketball player, except for two things.”
Robin said: “What two things?”
“Your feet.”
“Grauer, don’t you ever take anything seriously?” he reproached, so mad at me again.
It was sad but true. I didn’t.

Doctor: “You are very sick.”
Patient: “Can I get a second opinion?”
Doctor: “Yes, you are ugly too…”

jordan on jellybean patrol

Jordan on jellybean patrol
in the Headmaster’s Office

Humor, even in critical times, enables us to have entirely new look on something. When we laugh our minds open. We see the thing in a wholly new way. I can think of no time when another perspective is not beneficial in some way. None of us deserves to be stuck.

A teenage girl had been talking on the phone for about half an hour, and then she hung up.
“Wow!” said her father, “that was short. You usually talk for two hours. What happened?”
“Wrong number,” replied the girl.

Seeing things in a new way is not only what makes humor, it makes tolerance. A new perspective. What a gift!

It is technically an electrical activity that sweeps through the cerebral cortex and at least momentarily removes our fears and judgments: it is about the same brain activity that occurs when we are experiencing an act of kindness: a soothing coating of glucose across the neurons. According to “Psychology Today” and a vast body of research, laughter helps to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, and reduce stress hormones while triggering the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, and you feel naturally joyful. No matter what you are going through, I want all this for you. Call me cruel, but I wanted this for Robin Nicosia!

So, there is a strong relationship between compassion and humor. When we are suffering, we are stuck. Compassion gets us unstuck! There is even a book out now called Compassionate Laughter.

Did you hear about the psychiatrist who had a sign on his door that said, “If you have troubles, come in and tell me all about them. If you don’t have troubles, come in and tell me how you do it”?

There is one person who needs our compassion far more than any other: Yourself! We all have troubles. It’s just that some of us are able to release them into thin air, to let them go, like helium balloons. Release the pain and fear and worry. It can be done.

Floating away. Every one of us has the ability to do this, and the more you practice it, the better you get at it. Gone! There is a whole branch of psychology called Release Theory.

Of course, humor varies from person to person. If someone says a really bad joke, remember that they might be releasing pain, frustration, fear, anger and all the things you want them to release. You are not expected to laugh at a bad joke, but you surely can ask them sincerely if they feel better.

This, from the Book of Proverbs: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (17:22).

Luckily, there is a joke about everything! Here is a [physics teacher] Morgan joke:
Q: How can you drop an egg four feet without breaking it?
A: Drop it from five feet. It won’t break during the first four feet.

Seriously, students who use humor regularly literally do better on tests and experience less pressure and anxiety. When you are worried about final exams, it is not the finals that worry you. It is YOU that worries you. You can replace worry with openheartedness, and your mind will open in kind. Laugh a little.

The Teacher says: “I hope I didn’t see you looking at Lacie’s test paper.”
The Student says: “I hope you didn’t see me either!”

Let go of your test anxiety by getting comedic. Modern medicine shows that humorous people actually live longer! In hospitals, people who find things to laugh about get better faster.

If you rely upon others to provide your self-worth, your value, your happiness, you are going to get stuck a whole lot. You need to make joy yourself. A light heart is your responsibility, not that of any others, even your parents!

You can attain a happy state any number of ways by making a mind shift. You smile when you are happy, but did you know it works the other way around, too. Try this: if you force a smile on your face it will actually bring you into a better mood. Hold that smile for about two minutes, steady, and you will improve your mood. If you cannot do this, cannot control your own mind for even two minutes, this has big implications. Let’s talk about that.

There is a relationship between tolerance and jokes, because both force us to shift our mind and our way of seeing.

Nicosia said to me: “When I stand on my head the blood rushes to my head, but when I stand on my feet the blood doesn’t rush to my feet. Why is this?”
I said: “It’s because your feet aren’t empty.”

Smile when you wake up, no matter what. I watch or listen or read some comedy pretty much every day of my life! Some of the world’s greatest philosophers, spiritual guides, religious and educational leaders have this practice. The Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang once claimed that if the world leaders would sit down and watch Mickey Mouse cartoons together, there would never be a war. Personally, I’ll go with Seinfeld every time.

In Shakespeare’s time, the word “fool” was defined as “a term of endearment or compassion.”

In India there are laughing clubs. Let’s keep it going! Sadly, human humor seems to diminish as we supposedly grow up. On average, older people laugh less. One study has shown that children laugh about 300 times a day as compared to adults who laugh 17 times a day. Students, will you end up this way? It does not have to be this way. When was the last time you had one of those uncontrollable belly laughs? Stay young. Laugh. There has been much research which indicates that laughter is indeed the best medicine. The bottom line is that levity helps to produce a wonderful sense of well-being. Happiness and glee are contagious and have no known side effects except in their capacity to cause tolerance and compassion in ourselves and those around us.

And now a true story:

One day, a young Buddhist on his journey home came to the banks of a wide river. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he ponders for hours on just how to cross such a wide barrier. Just as he is about to give up his pursuit to continue his journey, he sees a great teacher on the other side of the river. The young Buddhist yells over to the teacher, “Oh wise one, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river?”

The teacher ponders for a moment, looks up and down the river, and yells back, “My son, you are on the other side!”

Alter your state of mind: be funny and your mind will open. Let today be a day for fools. May today be your day of open-hearted tolerance. Thank you!

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