The Importance of Humour

Living in a conservative, practical-minded and serious Asian family leaves little room for humour. My encounter with humour as a growing child was limited to “Just for Laughs” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos”. Occasionally, my father who is possibly the only humorous one in my family, would crack a joke that only I would laugh to. 

Then one grows up and watches Anchorman, Borat, Tropic Thunder, etc. and even begin to like Amy Schumer. What I’m saying is, it is great to laugh and not take life too seriously. It is in fact, important for survival, especially for people who are going through hard times in life. 

In the moving mini documentary of people suffering from Usher Syndrome, Danny showed his incredible sense of humour. As he suffered from tunnel vision, his perception was limited to a small rectangular frame. He described it as looking through two cardboard toilet rolls.  Despite his condition, he made the following hilarious comments about the time when President Clinton requested to taste his cajun cooking:

“The secret service came in and checked me all out, and made sure that I didn’t put in too much spices or to burn it. Now I forgot to put the tabasco sauce in the basket and I didn’t know whether the president liked it spicy or not, so I made it mild. And finally in the distance, we saw three great big black limos, and up on the buildings there were all these sharp shooters and they were pointing their guns at us. They came to the airplane. When President Clinton got out, he shook my hand. President Clinton has got a really big head, and he’s a tall, tall guy and he told me he loved cajun food.”

In a conversation on using the sense of smell instead of sight, he brought up a funny example:

“There was this woman who was losing her vision and she had the keenest sense of smell. It was funny because there was this one time she gave a person a hug and she smelled him, and then she gave another person a hug… and through her sense of smell, she realised that these two persons were having a sexual relationship.”

If persons suffering from disabilities can be humorous, we ought not to take our lives too seriously and learn to laugh at ourselves. 

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A Note on Education

As gleaned from NeuroTribes:

In 1911, Erwin Lazar founded the Children’s Clinic in Vienna. Instead of seeing special children as flawed, broken or sick, he believed they were suffering from neglect by a culture that had failed to provide them with teaching methods suited to their individual styles of learning.

He viewed each child as embodying a particular archetype and when he characterised children with one word, it was the clearest possible way of describing their particular abilities, talents and future prospects. He understood the child’s problems and the way in which they were the natural consequence of his or her personality. He knew which side of the child’s personality needed to be handled with care, what challenges he/she could face and how his/her future path could be shaped.

He aimed to turn his clinic into a more humane society whereby children could learn to interact in a context of mutual respect and appreciation. He said “It must give every child a chance to find a comrade like himself.”

Also, he believed that only by watching a child in course of his/her daily life could the true dimensions of the child’s condition be gauged and not though a battery of tests. It was a looking with open eyes, open minds.

Importantly, the standards of “normal” conduct was open-ended. The criterion for classifying behaviour as normal or abnormal was the challenges that it created for the individual child, not whether it strayed from an idealised template of psychological health.

Beyond the formulation of diagnosis, the clinic sought “to determine the innate capacities of the child, the alterable components of his personality, the causes of his pathological behaviour, what will best assure his personal happiness, security and social welfare, what his right place is in the family, society, what are his personal goals and ambitions, and how these can all be realised.”

The open-ended approach to educating children, especially those with special needs, is invaluable. Often, the education system tries to fit all into a straitjacket of perfection, suppressing individuality and ensuring performance. Arguably, this is a system that does not respect personhood or appreciate natural development. It is unfair to place children under a tyrannical system of stress upon stress, disregarding their personal needs and wants.