Humour as a spirituality of hope
A guy goes to a Franciscan church, knocks on the door, a Franciscan opens, the guy says, “Will you say a rosary for me for my intention?” Franciscan says “Sure, what’s your intention?” Guy says, “I want a Lexus.” And the Franciscan says, “What’s a Lexus?” And the guy says, “Well forget it, I’ll go to another church.” Goes to the Jesuit church, knocks on the door, a Jesuit opens up and he says, “Father before I ask you something, can you tell me, do you know what a Lexus is?” And the Jesuit says “Sure, top of the line car. A lot of my parishioners drive it.” He says “I want one.” Jesuit says, “I don’t blame you.” He says, “Will you say a rosary that I get one?” The Jesuit says, “Sure…what’s a rosary?”
A perennial question that is usually asked in the domains of religion and spirituality is the place or necessity of humour for salvation and the spiritual life respectively. On a serious note, humour is a missing ingredient in the spiritual life of many. Frequently, we are so focused on our task and worse still the negative things in life or we are so fixed on formalism and sometimes the very tiny aspects of our entire life and we keep hoping and hoping for miracles or changes to happen. Lack of gratitude has compounded the whole issue by leading us to be ungrateful for that which we have such as a roof over our heads, food, water, the air we breathe and so many things that are at our disposals but almost always taken for granted. lf we apply gratitude, it will usually remind us of the blessings we have in life and it will usually connect us more with God and unfailingly expand our sense of happiness and joy. Part of gratitude should have been our sense of humour but this is lacking or rarely remembered.
The danger experienced and promoted by people who struggle to live and lead a sound Christian maturity which characterizes the spiritual life is the challenge of rigidity as against flexibility. To this end, many find it very difficult to smile, laugh and joke. They are always too serious with life and at the point of any failure in life, they become very moody and unforgiving. Reasoned differently, a healthy dose of good humour will help us live each moment, both good and bad, more fully. A healthy spirituality allows an appropriate dose of humour to assist us to carry out the plan of God in our lives. The implication is that a sound spiritual life, gives room for the place of humour. Humour because we are fragile, fickle and full of imperfections. Let’s face it! How have we been faithful with our New Year’s resolutions? How have we been faithful to the promises and resolutions made after retreats and Lenten season? The case seems to hit more on parents. Why? For instance, taking care of children who scream, who are energetic and mischievous is not easy and in many cases, the result is always disheartening and frustrating. But parents with such children who misconstrue and think that screaming like their children will create immediate behavioural changes may end up becoming screamers themselves and make their children to laugh at them. A good sense of benign humour comes in handy when children misbehave, lest parents go overboard in demanding absolute perfection, only to be disappointed. Why waste your time? Embrace smiles, laughter and jokes within your journey of faith and laugh over your mistakes and move ahead in life. This is not to trivialize issues concerning our faith but to treat life with ease as life itself may not necessarily take us too seriously. So, we experience failures, pains, disappointments and frustration. The saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is true in the spiritual life because the pursuit of virtues can also cause tension and weariness of the body, mind and soul. Therefore, a sense of humour could serve as a means to relax tension and link back to work and hopefulness.
I quickly remember that every time I pick up a newspaper to read, aside the headlines and their details, my interest goes to cartoons and columns. As a person, humours have shaped my life and my ways of doing things. Yes, religion and spirituality focus on very serious Beings and subjects like God, deities, salvation, life after death, suffering and so on. How about joy? It is the sheer evidence of God (Pierre Chardin). If we can respect the place of joy in our spiritual life, then we ought to balance the equation with meaningful and appropriate smiles, laughter, riddles and jokes, visitations and table fellowship. The best way to connect humour and our spiritual life is to always have our end in view as we live on earth. Don’t forget that our end is a wedding feast as it is illustrated in Rev. 19:6-10).
Fr. John-Mary Atep