In humour there is the constant rumour that God exists.
Our ability to laugh and to laugh within any situation, no matter how dire and threatening it may be, suggests that we are somehow above any circumstance within which we find ourselves. In laughter we feel our immortality and feel too that there exists something which is beyond the here and now. Because of this, people have been able to laugh at their executioners, Thomas More was able to tell a joke on the scaffold, and ultimately everyone senses that nothing fully imprisons his or her spirit. By laughing at the imprisonment of the human spirit, humour implies that this imprisonment isn’t final. In humour we mock the here and now because we contuit that there is something beyond it. In the end, we can laugh precisely because, at the deepest level of our being, we know that God exists, that God is Lord, that God isn’t dour, and that eventually all will be well and so will every manner of being.
Thus, we shouldn’t always be so serious, especially about the things of theology and church. God has ordained this to be so, not by writing it into a set of dogmas but by hardwiring it right into our very genetic make-up. Knowing that the temptation to be pompous and over-serious, especially about religion, would constantly seduce us, God put a trickster, a court-jester, right into our bodies and souls. Whenever we get too serious, the jester inside us begins playing tricks on us, breaking wind, and we soon enough find ourselves healthily deflated – and looking into a bigger horizon wherein looms a transcendent God who doesn’t like pompousness. Joking is undignified, Chesterton once said, but that is precisely why it is so good for the soul.
With this as a high theological canopy, allow me to share some nuggets from a most motley group of jesters:
- When the Angel, Gabriel, announced to Mary that she was to be the Mother of Christ, Mary replied: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” Apparently Joseph too had a conversation with the same heavenly messenger that goes this way: Angel: “Joseph you’ve been chosen to have a role in all of this. You’re to remain in the background, dress in brown always, be a humble carpenter, support the holy family, and not have much of a speaking part, but to be a general support to this divine project. Do you accept?” And Joseph replied: “Behold the handyman of the Lord!”
- There’s been a long-standing theological dispute between Christians and Mormons. Christians claim that when Jesus died he spent the time between his death and resurrection “descending into hell”. The Mormons claim that during these three days he visited America. Maybe there is no contradiction here after all, both might be talking about the same thing. Besides you know how things sometimes go when you travel!
- Aging is tough. When you reach a certain age it seems like you’re having breakfast every 20 minutes!
- The second commandment is not so much a prohibition against profanity as it is against bad theology! (Michael Hines)
- We should be careful so as not to make the wrong mistake. (Yogi Berra)
- Advice to children: When your mom is mad at your dad, don’t let her brush your hair.
- Have you ever imagined a world with no hypothetical situations?
- A woman drove me to drink and I didn’t even have the decency to thank her. (W.C.Fields)
- When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading. (Henny Joungman)
- I have tried in my time to be a philosopher, but cheerfulness always kept breaking in. (Oliver Edwards
- Perhaps one has to be very old before one learns how to be amused rather than shocked. (Pearl S. Buck)
And finally there is the advice of Ann Thornhill and Sarah Wells, court jesters both of them, on how to nourish your inner martyr. (Today I Will Nourish my Inner Martyr: Affirmations for Cynics, Ann Thornhill and Sarah Wells, Prima Publishing, Rocklin, Ca, 1998) Try repeating these mantras to yourself
- Today I will ignore my inner child.
- Today I will talk to my inner child using only “shoulds” and “have-to’s.”
- Today I will second-guess myself as much as possible
- Today I will acknowledge my inherent shame and try to be as inconspicuous as possible
- Today I will practice looking forlorn
- Today I will patronize an authority figure
- Today I will use chocolate to fill my empty, inner wasteland
- Today I will start by reminding myself that I used to be a lot younger, thinner, and happier
- Today I will focus on one aspect of my body that displeases me
- Today I will accept that, of all the seasons, winter best symbolizes my spirituality – dead and shrivelled
- Today I will accept that I am aging very poorly
- Today I will accept that I am a humourless wretch
Accepting our humourlessness is indeed a good starting point.