This President of our United States has been reported to be without close friends.
In September 2017, Politico magazine dubbed him “The Loneliest President.” For argument’s sake, assuming there’s a shadow of truth behind this bit of fake news, one has to wonder why the leader of the free world should have no non-family moral support. My theory is that the commander-in-chief lacks a sense of humor.
Anna Menke posits, “We have lungs so we can breathe and friends so we can laugh.” Without friends, the world can be a lonely place. As social beings, we gravitate to be around those that can bring us joy and ease our pain. If you’re like me, the people that make you laugh the most and loudest are likely your closest friends. And that laughter sometimes comes when you need it most – when the world seems bleak and you can’t quite get out of your own way. Our very best friends help us laugh at ourselves when we need to and regain perspective. In this way, they teach us about ourselves – softly.
But what is humor? We know it when we experience it. But what is the formula behind the circumstances that actually make us laugh?
Peter McGraw, a leading researcher at the Human Research Lab (HURL) at the University of Colorado in Boulder, notes that humor is experienced across all cultures and all ages. – it’s pervasive among our species. Peter also notes that besides making us happy, it helps us deal with pain, stress, and adversity. In short, humor, when applied correctly, can make us more resilient. In the following TED Talk, Peter summarizes the findings of his research: funny happens when we are presented with “benign violations.”
Peter gives some examples to demonstrate The Benign Violation Theory including:
- Walking down the stairs (benign, but not a violation = not funny)
- Falling down the stairs but not getting hurt (benign and a violation = funny)
- Falling down the stairs and getting hurt (malign violation = not funny)
Violations of norms come in many shapes and sizes (social, physical, linguistic, moral), and a condition can be made benign through a variety of means including psychological distancing (for example, if the situation happened a long time ago, or if it happens to someone else, or if it is implausible).
How does this relate back to the President? His electronic media record speaks for itself (and will not be regurgitated here): whereas he has mastered the art of the violation, there is no evidence that he can be benign. Therefore, no humor. Therefore, no friends.
The good news is that a life without friends seems to match his dog-eat-dog world view.
The bad news is he’s presiding over a nation, not a casino.