There are a lot of things that people say have healing powers: humor, green tea, prayer, positive thinking, antibiotics. Sometimes these platitudes can be fuzzy, but fortunately for everyone, I am here to offer a small but literal anecdote of how humor actually does heal. Yes, literal, I am using the word correctly (I always use the word correctly).
I spent a LOT of time this week listening to standup. The drive to Bethesda from my apartment is about half an hour, and I also spent a fair amount of time getting takeout, as my family likes to eat and one of my parents (not naming names) basically refused to leave the room of the other parent for most of the week. I like standup comedy a lot, but I often forget about it, so this was sort of nice; I listened to both of Hannibal Buress's albums, John Mulaney's New in Town, Kyle Kinane's Whiskey Icarus, and two or three episodes of Aisha Tyler's Girl on Guy podcast. The Buress stuff in particular I went through five or six times - I wanted to pick out some tracks to play for my mother, and if we were all going to be in the room listening to it at the same time, the material required a little bit of curation. I am happy to report that it stays funny, and that in addition to being funny he is good and I highly recommend his work.
On the second or third day after her surgery, Mom was supposed to be taking deep breaths, which is difficult when you have three or four tubes of varying diameters protruding from your sternum. As a result, she was not a huge fan of the whole deep breaths thing, and pretty clearly did not enjoy it. Fortunately for all of us, however, she only had the concentration power to listen to short pieces of media, which is what brings us to Mr. Buress's tour de force tale of international crime, "Jaywalking."
And, since laughter is more or less involuntary, that is how we got my mother to clear out her lungs and start breathing properly again.
I think the key here is that laughter overrides so many of our other inhibitions. There were a number of barriers to her progress, including "This hurts" and "I'm extremely tired." The lovely thing about humor, though, is that it manages to trick us into overcoming these obstacles. Metaphorically and, again, literally. So thanks, Hannibal. I hope your work becomes required listening at hospitals. I guess that's a weird thing to wish, but you know what, I take risks in life.