Laughter Guru Treats His Followers With The Best Medicine
An Phung is a multimedia journalist based in New York City. She has contributed to NYTimes.com, Patch.com and City Limits. She also spent time reporting in Indonesia where she covered stories about the country's growing illicit drug trade. An graduated from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism with a concentration in international reporting.
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What is the Big Idea?
Belachew Girma was once a school teacher, store owner and hotel owner. It seemed like he had it all. But after a series of bad choices, his life took a turn for the worse when both his wife and lover died after they contracted H.I.V. from him. His hotel and store burned down and both were destroyed again by floods after it was rebuilt. He couldn't catch a break.
It's hard to believe that a man with very little to smile about laughed for three hours and six minutes in Germany, a feat that made him the World Laughter Champion in 2008. And now, he is also the founder of Ethiopia's first Laughter School.
"The school’s website says that people can even be trained to laugh in the face of hunger and destruction. Whether it was this claim or the site’s quaint English, 22 Ethiopians have already signed up for a laughter course," according to Die Welt.
What is the Significance?
Alemayehu Anbessie, one of Girma's followers, has a tumor on his right cheek the size of an orange. But he spends so much time laughing with his teacher that he no longer needs medicine.
“I can’t laugh the cancer away,” says the engineer, “but the laughter helps me live with the cancer. Since I’ve learned how to laugh, I don’t need painkillers anymore.”
Laughter makes people feel good, according to cartoonist and Big Thinker, Robert Mankoff. It's also able to help alleviate stress, which explains why Girma and Anbessie feel relief from their cancer and H.I.V.
"Since laughter actually occurs often in some stressful situation and transforms the stress, it reduces stress, so you know it’s a stress reducer," said Mankoff. "It can act as a mild analgesic."
Whether his students are stressed, suffering or just in need of better people skills, Girma teaches them that a day without laughter is a lost day. It's been over 3,500 days since Girma had a lost day.
Watch Robert Mankoff talk about the science of laughter:
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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