Sunday, April 3, 2011

On roaring back...

I am amazed and amused at how my insides (brain included) know what’s happened (sepsis, surgery, ileostomy, surgery reversal) and are working together to get back on track cooperatively as I instinctively re-toilet-train myself. I am brilliant, an awesome thing.  

Do you know the story about the argument among body parts as to which is most important: brain, heart, liver, rectum? Of course, the rectum wins. When that shuts down, nothing else can work.

When I realize that I am coming roaring back, it has a whole new meaning. tee-hee

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Why is the baby laughing?

I was a early-baby-smiler. And, cute, too. How about you? I'm pretty sure I've been laughing since darned near the day I was born, literally since almost midnight January 5, 1941. I will explain how you might know that so that you can decide whether or not you have been, too.

Simply, as far as I can tell, the conditions in our middle-class Jewish home and family life, in West Philadelphia, made early-baby-smiling practically a sure thing. I was a healthy 'bouncing boy' (is that term still used?) with loving parents, a loving older sister, Phyllis, who giggled constantly as it turned out, our maternal grandparents living with us to help raise us, dad's good job as the breadwinner, intelligence, musical talent, and the threat of war had not yet clearly arrived at our doorstep.

I was a natural to be an early giggler: healthy, pain-free, well-nourished, loved, protected, in a calm, predictable environment.

Very modern neurological technology is showing how and why this works at a nearly primal and instinctive level in the enormously powerful health-and-reproduction-drive of human beings. Current science is backing up the earlier theorists on these matters. For many years, experts in the field of human development have said that laughter appears to be inborn in human beings while a sense of humor is something we develop over a period of years. I have been told that this has been further detailed by neurologists, saying that the neurological substrates that control laughing and smiling are mature at birth, but when the infant laughs in the cradle we don't decide "That kid has a great sense of humor!"

Laughter, including smiling and a kind of giggling happens in humans within weeks after birth, perhaps within days, and some think that smiling may even happen in utero (but this brings us to contentious, perhaps unanswerable, religious and political debates, so I will leave it out for now).

Early-baby-smiling has often been explained as “the baby has gas”, but now we know better. Flatulence in young infants might be related to smiling the way any kind of relief from discomfort starts the production of feel-good chemicals in the brain. The infant laughs before it has a sense of self and, because it is still undifferentiated in the world, we can be certain that it does not have a sense of humor and is not responding to a joke. But, barring any anomaly of function, it has a brain that reacts in a healthy way to signals/information it gets from the body.

When the conditions are right (, what occurs might be called primal laughter; very basic and seeming instinctive. It may well be a result of the brain chemistry of pleasure. Also certainly, this laughter is spontaneous, uninhibited, and un-self-conscious. It is, perhaps, our most authentic laughter, to be modified soon enough under social pressures.

I believe there are conditions that we should say incline the human brain to produce signals resulting in smiling and giggling, even in a newborn so young that it has no 'self' awareness. The presence of the opposite of these conditions is dis-inclining  the brain to send forth signals, with feel-good chemical signals for smiling and giggling.

So, what were your first days and weeks and months like? Were you an early-smiling-baby? If so, then how fortunate for you. You had some good luck. If not, you may have picked up your proclivity for laughter and humor a little later down the road, and you can still develop more of it right now.
Humor and laughter therapeutics, such as programs offered by World Laughter Tour (, are being used to help people approach or re-create that authentic and pleasurable state. This experience has been reported by some who engage in practices known as laughter circles, and laughter meditation. Although there is not yet clear agreement on the definition of these practices, some experts have confirmed the experience of “authentic” laughter as “real”, pleasant and satisfying. More evidence-based research is needed, but until then, laugh all you can.

And, while you’re at it, how about helping create a world full of early-baby-smilers, where the conditions are right, nobody goes hungry, everybody has healthcare, education, and peace prevails.