The Fair Society

Human nature and the pursuit of a more just political system

Laughter as Therapy

A crazy idea for a crazy time.

First, you must not take this too seriously - but you should also take it to heart. That's the mantra, and the model, of Patch Adams.

Dr. Patch Adams, MD is a legend. (They made a movie about him in the 1990s starring Robin Williams.) After a "traditional" medical school education, Adams rebelled against the authoritarian, pill-pushing, robo-doctor model of medicine and pioneered a more humane approach based on laughter, love and caring as primary forms of medical treatment.  And guess what?  It works.  Adams' Gesundheit Institute has become world famous as a place where fun and healing go hand in hand.  Clowning around (in moderation) seems to make for better doctors and happier, healthier patients.  Call it laughter therapy.

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Maybe laughter, love and caring would also work in our politics.  Just imagine if the presidential candidates showed up for their next TV debate with rubber noses and were tested for their skills as stand-up comics. (Did you say it's already a comedy?)  Or what if President Obama and House Speaker Boehner wore clown costumes for their next meeting at the White House.  I know, that's no laughing matter, but maybe it would help.  Or what if politicians who fail the Washington Post's "Pinocchio test" for mendacity had to wear a Pinocchio nose of the appropriate length.  Fat chance, you say?

The larger point which Patch Adams has amply demonstrated is that laughter can be a potent influence for the better in our lives - and maybe in our politics as well.  Remember the line from the old popular song, "Be a clown, be a clown, all the world loves a clown..." Better yet, if we could all get in touch with our inner clowns and act out our latent Charlie Chaplin - or Patch Adams - from time to time, the world would probably be a better, more caring place.  It's certainly worth a try. 

 

Peter Corning, Ph.D., is director of the Institute for Complex Systems. He taught for many years at Stanford University, and is the author of several books on biology and society.

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