Laugh or Die

Eryn Katsikea
This is the Laugh Club. Would you like to join? No? Can I interest you in The Death Club?

Image: Karoliina Pulkkinen

The Laugh Club is a cloth banner hanging from a tree in a neglected park somewhere deep in central Athens, Greece, and a dozen, or occasionally more, people in a circle on the ground taking turns laughing as hysterically as possible. Some people finally got tired of talking about the recession and instead, stricken by the reality that laughter is indeed contagious, thought to spread the joy. Literally. It is fairly simple, when surrounded by cheerful people, you are inclined to become cheerful as well, when seeing and hearing people laugh, after a while you start laughing as well. Whether because some people’s laughter sounds ridiculous or even because you are faking it, eventually, your laughter will gradually become genuine and will be enough for your body to produce “the happy hormones” and all the relevant substances, thus making you happy.  There is an actual science based system, I am very carefully avoiding using the word “science” on its own here for the reluctant readers, taking all this to the next level, Laughology; more or less a philosophy encouraging positive thinking and humor into every minute of our lives for the sake of personal health and wellbeing, teamwork and leadership.

The Death Club is a coffee house, a pub, somebody’s house, in Great Britain, lately in the U.S. , where people get the chance to talk about the one thing they are most afraid of, Death. Without inhibitions or any restraints whatsoever people of all ages reflect on the one thing that is responsible for half the psychological complexes of the modern man, a somber issue that normally belongs only to psychotherapist’s offices or to Irvin Yalom’s book signing events. This one is not as simple. The so called “legacy motive” urges people who are aware and unafraid of the reality of their mortality to use wisely their short time they have, being charitable towards others and respectful towards the earth. This way, sharing with others their thoughts about death and their pertinent experiences, not only do they relieve death and mortality of their taboo status and help one another carry the weight of their fears and sorrows, but they actually make the world a better place, by making themselves more aware and more  responsible of their own fates.

Lately there are lots of clubs and societies spreading the word out on the internet to resist Zuckerberg’s self-important world and socialize like they are real people for a change. People are devoting their time and effort to bringing into life groups like “Philosophy in Pubs” or “Art History in the Pub”. There is an apparent tendency for people to get together, around a coffee table or over a bottle of beer and just try and stimulate their minds for a while. These groups are virtually reigniting the social contribution of public venues such as pubs and coffeehouses, places that have traditionally served as centers of social interaction since the dawn of urban culture. Places where one can read, write, talk, debate, get drunk and have a laugh, under the roofs of which the most immediate and basic form of socialization and actual cultural interaction, along with the trade of coffee itself, have flourished throughout the centuries from the Middle East to the cosmopolitan cities of Western Europe, London, Paris, Vienna, New York City.

When Vincent Van Gogh, contemplating his famous painting “Night Café”, said “the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, run mad or commit a crime” it was only the absinthe talking, even though in a modern context he might have said the same thing walking into a Starbucks. However, this might as well be the best thing that has happened since Facebook made us forget how to shake hands. So, log off and, as always, enjoy responsibly.