From smile to laughter

By Matthieu Ricard on December 09, 2011

Laughter often follow up on smile and amplifies it. Yet all forms of smiles do not lend themselves to this transition and in some cases, laughter is not an appropriate extension of smiling. We can smile with sincere compassion to someone who suffers, while laughting would be contemptuous of his suffering. There are sad and melancholic smiles but rarely sad laughter. There is nervous laughter caused by fear, by surprise or by a sense of relief. With arrogance and cynicism, one may laugh at the others' misfortunes. There are also sardonic laughter and cruel laughter of rejoicing when revenge has been taken. An artificial smile may sometimes be accompanied by a contrived laughter.

Sincere and sympathetic laughter strengthens the emotional bonds between people and the cohesion of a group. It can dispel aloofness and misunderstandings, and allow one to take lightly the preoccupations of daily life. It can defuse tense situations by bringing things in a broader perspective. Laughter is about sharing emotions. One study showed that children who listen to a comedy laugh more when there are two of them together than when they are alone. Except where laughter is cruel, everyone appreciates good laugh.
From the recent photobook 108 Sourires