UPDATE: This post underwent significant editorial changes as of 2/9/2018.
This series of posts is based on a list of initiatory Vices and Virtues of the Left Hand Path found in Uncle Setnakt’s Essential Guide to the Left Hand Path by Don Webb. It is done with the permission of the publisher, Lodestar. If these posts pique your interest in the Left Hand Path, please look for the book at Lodestar’s site, http://www.seekthemystery.com , or at Amazon. I highly recommend it, along with many others.
Virtue #3: Sense of Humor
I hope the publisher will forgive me, but the text in Uncle Setnakt’s Guide on this Virtue is so short that I feel compelled to publish it here in its entirety:
“If an Initiate cannot laugh at his or her own mistakes, they should give up trying. If they can’t laugh at the world, they will go mad. Laughter is the banisher of obsessions, and the mark of someone sure of their Sovereignty.”
Humor is so integral to the LHP that it isn’t even funny.
The common view of humor is that it is a luxury; if you have room to laugh and make light of things, you must be on Easy Street, because otherwise, life is no joke. In humankind’s primitive state, virtually every moment carries intense weight.
The myth of humor is that the above view holds true–because humor distracts us from serious matters and takes us out of the state of vigilance upon which primitive humankind routinely depended.
The reality of humor is that that it can often highlight what really matters, and that living in a constant state of vigilance is needlessly draining.
Levity, believe it or not, is actually empowering.
Tell me: When do you feel the most fulfilled, content, and whole? When do you forget all of your worries, every little care that saps your mental and emotional energy, and embrace the present moment? When do you feel that all obstacles are totally surmountable—nevermind—when do you completely forget that obstacles even exist? When does life seem absolutely pregnant with The Possible? When can you turn to the neighbor with whom you normally disagree, and totally embrace them in that time and place, regardless of what happens outside of it?
Chances are, every standard moment of laughter meets all of the above requirements, which the astute spiritual seeker might also recognize as bona fide markers on “The Path,” as it were. Conclusion? The more you’re laughing, the more you mimic what virtually every spiritually tradition identifies as the goal.
How often does The Buddha look sad? Why is Hotei always laughing?
Why do you think?
Just because it’d be kind of funny, I’ll parse Webb’s quote about humor in a methodical, piece-by-piece manner:
- If an Initiate cannot laugh at his or her mistakes, they should give up trying.
If you look at the Vices laid out previously, the reason for this is obvious. Narcissism and Hubris being Vices on the LHP, anything that combats them must be at least partially virtuous. Nothing combats narcissism and hubris like humor. Narcissists hate being laughed at—they cannot help but take it as something that diminishes their worth. They endeavor to be taken seriously at all times. If you care to overcome it, you need to learn to laugh at yourself.
Everyone makes mistakes. If we were to be judged solely on our mistakes and never on our successes, we would all be found sorely lacking. Humor is how we get past this. Shit happens, right? In this sense, humor plays a multitude of roles at once. Humor is redemption and forgiveness—the inevitability of imperfection means that we can always afford the “luxury” of laughter. Humor is an elevator and transformer—if we can laugh off our mistakes, we are encouraged and empowered to do better in the future. Otherwise, life itself would be futile.
The bottom line is this: You are going to make mistakes, period. If every mistake you made were eternally held against you, you’d never amount to anything. Nobody would. Thus, we need a goddamn eraser. Humor is that eraser.
- If they can’t laugh at the world, they will go mad.
At this time, I’d like to open up the floor for comments, even from the Peanut Gallery—after all, without the Peanut Gallery, we would all be lost.
No matter what circumstances you’re born into, the world has some heavy shit to throw your way. Let’s pretend you could possibly be perfect; if so, the world would still let you down somehow. The best laid plans of mice and men are a joke in the grand scheme of things. In a sense, laughter is merely the recognition of this fact.
Life is going to be maddening sometimes. We may hold certain values, and certain beliefs that stem from those values, but if we’re going to depend on those values to be upheld at all times, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
The only remaining option, when the world fucks us, is laughter. Only thus can we fully let go of the past and the expectation, and move on. Try to do so otherwise—I dare you.
- Laughter is the banisher of obsessions, and the mark of someone sure of their Soveriegnty.
The reason laughter is the banisher of obsessions is because nothing else has that power. It all stems from humor’s essentially non-rational nature. By the time you reach the point of obsession, you have likely applied every rational explanation and loophole you can think of, but the issue at hand has proven itself intractable to such approaches. You are unable to think your way out, so you must laugh your way out.
Now, about humor and Sovereignty:
If you can laugh at something, you obviously overpower it on some level; otherwise, you would take everything it said and did seriously. Thus, it holds true that if you can muster an authentic belly-laugh about anything, then on some level, you have surpassed that thing. You own it. You control it.
What many people don’t realize is that being able to whole-heartedly laugh at something is not only a product of one’s ability to overcome it—it is actually instrumental in that process at the same time. If I could spell out why, I would hold a dangerous and awesome power, and I would charge you $39.50 a month just for the privilege of reading this drek.