Use Those Muscles

Have you ever wondered why many people smile when they are taking someone else's picture?

Due mainly to the zygomaticus major which gets pulled at an angle superolaterally, we use between 17 and 43 muscles to smile. That said, do you remember the last time you laughed so hard your face hurt? What a joy that pain is!

I remember a colleague telling me about an international conference he went to which was held in Italy. It was in the early 90s, not too long after the end of the Cold War and the wall had been brought down. Some participants were from East Berlin. The morning after the opening gala, one of the Germans said he could barely sleep because he heard the others laughing into the wee hours. They apologized but he quickly stopped them. "No," he said. "It was wonderful. I hadn't heard such laughter in years!"

If you listened to my podcast this past Wednesday (below), I told the story of a man who made folks smile as he carried a tomato seedling through an airport and onto a plane.

The home office where Alice and I work is happily near a window overlooking our front yard. For some years, we would see a woman passing our house along the sidewalk; we named her "The Smiler" as there was truly no other way to describe the happy grin on her face. When we were out walking one afternoon she neared us and I blurted out, "We call you the smiling woman." Her smile only increased. Unfortunately for us, she moved two years ago. I can only hope that wherever she now calls home there are others who benefit and appreciate her persistent smile.

One final quote:

  • Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself. -- Mohsin Hamid

Hey, if they say yawning is contagious, perhaps when we smile we might make someone reach inside and do the same. I think the world would be better off, don't you!?