Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Laughter and Humor

Quotes (80)

“Laughing love’s low laughter… Lost in the love trance.”

Sappho 612 – 570 BCE
“The Poetess” and most famous Greek woman

“We run with the god of laughter;
Labor is joy and weariness is sweet”

Euripides 480 – 406 BCE via Philip Vellacott
Ancient humanitarian influence continuing today
from Bacchae Βάκχαι

“When people laughed at him because he walked backward beneath the portico, he said to them: ‘Aren't you ashamed, you who walk backward along the whole path of existence, and blame me for walking backward along the path of the promenade?’”

Diogenes 412 – 323 BCE via Will Durant
(of Sinope)
from Life of Greece

41. Distilled Life

“No one is laughable who laughs at himself”

Seneca ˈsɛnɪkə 4 BCE – 65 CE
(Lucius Annaeus)

“To laugh, if but for an instant only, has never been granted to man before the fortieth day from his birth, and then it is looked upon as a miracle of precocity.”

Pliny 23 – 79 CE
(Pliny Gaius Plinius Secundus, Pliny the Elder)
Founding father of the encyclopedia

from Natural History

“He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος 55 – 135 CE
from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

49. No Set Mind

“Laugh a great deal and take nothing seriously.”

Lucian of Samosata 125 – 180 CE
Monumental influence on western literature.

“An old lady who lives to the east got rich a few years ago. Before poorer than me,now she mocks my poverty. She laughs that I’m behind, I laugh that she’s ahead. It seems we can’t stop laughing from the east and from the west.”

Han Shan 1
(Cold Mountain)

42. Children of the Way

“When inferior people hear of the Tao, even the ancient sages can’t keep them from laughing. Everyone in the world thinks existence is real. Who wouldn’t shake their head and laugh if they were told that existence wasn’t real and that non-existence was?”

Li Xizhai 1 via Red Pine
(Li Hsi-Chai)
from Tao-te-chen-ching yi-chieh

41. Distilled Life

“In the experience of yogins who do not perceive things dualistically, the fact that things manifest without truly existing is so amazing they burst into laughter.”

Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ། 1308 – 1364 CE via Padma Translation Committee
(Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer)
from The Basic Space of Phenomena

“I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is thirsty… go where you will… if you do not find your soul, the world will be unreal… Go not elsewhere.”

Kabīr कबीर 1399 – 1448 CE

80. A Golden Age

“Often, more is taught by a jest than by the most serious teaching.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, #22
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

“I have had to endure much, and have only been able to endure it because I have always laughed whenever I had the chance.”

Catherine the Great Екатери́на Вели́кая 1729 – 1796 CE
(Catherine II)

“A person reveals his character by nothing so clearly as the joke he resents.”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg 1742 – 1799 CE
One of history’s best aphorists

“There is nothing in which people more betray their character than in what they laugh at.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE
from Elective Affinities (1809)

“Excessive sorrow laughs. Excessive joy weeps.”

William Blake 1757 – 1827 CE

77. Stringing a Bow

“Those who laugh together become like the waves of the sea… They are no more separate than are two waves.”

Ryokan 良寛大愚 1758 – 1758 CE
(Ryōkan Taigu,“The Great Fool”)

42. Children of the Way

“Wit consists in knowing the resemblance of things that differ, and the difference of things that are alike.”

Madame de Staël 1766 – 1817 CE
(Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein)
"The greatest woman of her time"

“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.”

Lord Byron 1788 – 1824 CE
(George Gordon Byron)
The first rock-star style celebrity

“No man who has once heartily and wholly laughed can be altogether irreclaimably bad.”

Thomas Carlyle 1795 – 1881 CE
"Great Man” theory of history creator

from Sartor Resartus (1833)

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”

Victor Hugo 1802 – 1885 CE
Literary pioneer, poet, and social justice provocateur

“Earth laughs in flowers.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

“A human being should be aware of how he laughs, for then he shows all his faults.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism
from Journals (1836)

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new… The head monkey in Paris puts on a traveler’s cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Walden or Life in the Woods

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“A good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce of a good thing… the man that has anything bountifully laughable about him, be sure that there is more in that man than you perhaps think”

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

“Comedy is in act superior to tragedy and humorous reasoning superior to grandiloquent reasoning.”

Friedrich Engels 1820 – 1895 CE
Businessman-philosopher, political theorist

“He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE

78. Water

“Maintaining cheerfulness in the midst of a gloomy task, fraught with immeasurable responsibility, is no small feat; and yet what is needed more than cheerfulness? Nothing succeeds if prankishness has no part in it.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from Twilight of the Idols

“He who laughs best today, will also laugh last.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE via Ludovici
from Twilight of the Idols

“Laughter is not at all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is by far the best ending for one.”

Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900 CE
from Picture of Dorian Gray

“Art is the only serious thing in the world. And the artist is the only person who is never serious.”

Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900 CE

“Great and wise men have ever loved laughter. The vain, the ignorant, the dishonest, the pretentious, alone have dreaded or despised it.”

Elbert Hubbard 1856 – 1915 CE
from A Thousand and One Epigrams

“Wit is the best safety valve modern man has evolved; the more civilization, the more repression, the more need there is for wit.”

Sigmund Freud 1856 – 1939 CE
from Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious, 1905

“Laughter is the corrective force which prevents us from becoming cranks.”

Henri-Louis Bergson 1859 – 1941 CE
from Laughter

49. No Set Mind

“Laughter is the corrective force which prevents us from becoming cranks.”

Henri-Louis Bergson 1859 – 1941 CE

“When laughter is humble, when it is not based on self-esteem, it is wiser than tears.”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet
from War Shrines

“The comedy of each age holds up a mirror to the people of that age, a mirror that is unique... Popular comedy reflects the average person.”

Edith Hamilton 1867 – 1963 CE
from Roman Way

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948 CE

41. Distilled Life

“When things grow hopelessly complicated, and we can't laugh, we do either one of two things: we lie or we die. But if we can laugh, we can fight! And be honest!”

David Grayson 1870 – 1946 CE
(Ray Stannard Baker)
One of the most insightful journalists, historians, and biographers of his time

from Great Possessions

“I believe—contrary to the fashion among our contemporaries—that one can have a very lofty idea of literature, and at the same time have a good-natured laugh at it.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from Letter to his friend André Gide

“Humor can get in under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

15. Inscrutability

“Eventually all things fall into place. Until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moments, and know everything happens for a reason.”

Albert Schweitzer 1875 – 1965 CE

“Do you believe in this false measure, that laughter is lower than worship?”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE via Shan Dao
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Red Book, Liber Novus

“Learn what is to be taken seriously and laugh at the rest.”

Hermann Hesse 1877 – 1962 CE
from Steppenwolf

27. No Trace
63. Easy as Hard

“Schopenhauer's saying, that 'a man can do as he will, but not will as he will,' has been an inspiration to me since my youth up, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others'. This feeling mercifully mitigates the sense of responsibility which so easily becomes paralyzing, and it prevents us from taking ourselves and other people too seriously; it conduces to a view of life in which humor, above all, has its due place.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE
from My World-view, 1931​

“And best (or worst) of all, I grew old during that time, so that now I am a settled and mature old spinster with an opinion on every topic under heaven... I've also acquired... a sense of humor—so that I no longer take myself and my doings seriously...”

Frances Perkins 1880 – 1965 CE
One of the most influential champions for worker's rights

“I knew that in this laughter were courage and integrity. Both the old man and my brother turned pale, awed by my courage and integrity.”

Lǔ Xùn 鲁迅 1881 – 1936 CE
(Zhou Shuren; Lusin)
Insightful satirist representing the "Literature of Revolt"

from A Madman's Diary

“'Tis the loud laugh bespeaks the vacant mind.”

James Joyce 1882 – 1941 CE
from Ulysses

“They lived and laughed and loved and left.”

James Joyce 1882 – 1941 CE
from Finnegan's Wake

“The selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filed with your tears.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE
from The Prophet

“If it had been a question of choosing a spiritual guide, a guru, surely I would have chosen Zorba... from Zorba's elderly breast a laugh spurted and demolished all the barriers—morality, religion, homeland—which that wretched poltroon, man, has erected around him in order to hobble with full security through his miserable smidgen of life.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE via P. A. Bien, Shan Dao
from Report to Greco

“I would not exchange the laughter of my heart for the fortunes of the multitudes.”

Kahlil Gibran 1883 – 1931 CE

56. One with the Dust

“But now and again in the midst of this seriousness there is a smile—All opposites join together, mix, and are reconciled here, creating the supreme miracle, harmony.”

Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 – 1957 CE via P. A. Bien
from Report to Greco

“a subtle similarity between… wisdom and humor… both may come from seeing things in perspective.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
from The Age of Reason Begins

“Humor is akin to philosophy for they are both viewpoints born of a large perspective of life.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE via John Little
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time, 1968

“And so the first moment [he] put his eyes on her she was laughing and the sunlight fell on her and he saw her like this, her hair shining black and her cheeks red and her lips red and her teeth white and her head throw back in laughter, and he was struck as though a sword had fallen across his heart.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE
from Dragon Seed

“Comedy is the last refuge of the non-conformist mind.”

Gilbert Seldes 1893 – 1970 CE
Maker of the first full-length documentary film

“Comedy is the last refuge of the nonconformist mind.”

Gilbert Seldes 1893 – 1970 CE
Maker of the first full-length documentary film

“The great thing about laughter is laughter itself. Let's not try to explain it.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE
from On the Wisdom of America (1950)

“This I conceive to be the chemical function of humor: to change the character of our thought.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE

“Then you will say to them, 'Yes, the stars always make me laugh!' And they will think you are crazy.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE

41. Distilled Life

“And the little prince broke into a lovely peal of laughter, which irritated me very much. I like my misfortunes to be taken seriously.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE

63. Easy as Hard

“Laughter—that is something very sacred—especially for us Indians. For people who are as poor as us, who have lost everything, who had to endure so much death and sadness, laughter is a precious gift.”

John Fire Lame Deer 1903 – 1976 CE via Richard Erdoes
from Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions

“Humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.”

Viktor Frankl 1905 – 1997 CE
Brave and insightful concentration camp survivor

“The greatest enemy of authority, therefore, is contempt, and the surest way to undermine it is laughter.”

Hannah Arendt 1906 – 1975 CE
Fearless researcher into the darker reaches of the human psyche

“A sense of humor is incompatible with the complete acceptance of any dogma, any religious, political, or economic prescription for salvation. It synthesizes with curiosity, irreverence, and imagination.”

Saul Alinsky 1909 – 1972 CE

“Guidance, if given at all, should be so subtle that the person concerned doesn’t know he is being guided. Confrontation, to Taoists, is unthinkable… for the Tao is most easily found when laughter comes spontaneously.”

John Blofeld 1913 – 1987 CE

49. No Set Mind

“Isn’t it only through laughter that we become one with the gods and thus can endure life and can overcome all the horror and waste and suffering here on earth? …Isn’t it only through laughter we can stay human?”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian
from Shōgun, 1975

“If you smile when you lose, then you win in life.”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian
from Tai-pan, 1966

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ 1926 CE –

“What afflicted people in Brave New World was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.”

Neil Postman 1931 – 2003 CE
from Amusing Ourselves to Death

“time has no hold on her who filled the night with laughter”

Gesshin Myoko Roshi 1931 – 1999 CE
Moon heart miraculous light
from A Sudden Flash of Lightening: Words Out of Silence

56. One with the Dust

“when you lose your laugh you lose your footing”

Ken Kesey 1935 – 2001 CE

“At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities”

Jean Houston 1937 CE –

“There is a big difference between a cynical and a serious joke... enlightened jokes are much lighter because they leave room for wisdom and an acceptance of the past.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Shan Dao
from Orderly Chaos — The Mandala Principle

“If you can get humor and seriousness at the same time, you've created a special little thing, and that's what I'm looking for, because if you get pompous, you lose everything.”

Paul Simon 1941 CE –
Prolific planter of musical, cultural wisdom seeds

“A tragedy is a comedy misunderstood. Once you realize what you are, there's nothing but gratitude and laughter.”

Stephen Mitchell 1943 CE –
from Second Book of Tao

5. Christmas Trees

“There are two kinds of humor. One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule—that's what I do. Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel -- it's vulgar.”

Molly Ivins 1944 – 2007 CE
Biting but humorous social commentator

“Love, friendship, laughter... Some of the best things in life really are free.”

Bob Marley 1945 – 1981 CE

“Humor allows us to see that ultimately things don’t make sense.”

Dzigar Kongtrül Rinpoche ཛི་གར་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ། 1964 CE –

12. This Over That

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