Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Humor Can Be Dangerous

Trying to be funny can be dangerous to your health, says the desk columnist of the Catholic Times. Expecting someone to laugh and fearing for your life at the same time is the topic he wants to explore in his column.

What is it they want us to laugh about? he asks. He goes to the Scriptures for some help in understanding what is meant. Jesus experienced all the emotions of joy, anger, sorrow and pleasure, but we understand that he was too busy with his mission to enjoy making people laugh or to find reasons to laugh. He knew well the bitter chalice of the cross that awaited him, yet we get an inkling of his refined humor.

When asked on whose authority do you teach in the temple, he, in turn, asked them from whom did John the Baptist's authority come? From heaven or from earth? The question was cleverly phrased. When they could not answer he also refused to answer. He wore the white uniform of ghosts and walked on the water like a spirit hovering over the water. After the resurrection, he appeared to the disciples gathered in the upper room with the doors locked and asked, Are you in peace? The journalist  feels that they must have come close to fainting when he unexpectedly appeared. .

These incidents can be seen with some  humor, and yet they were filled with love for the disciples. Jesus showed his power and  concern for them. His humor was based on truth in God; without this it is difficult to understand the crucifixion and resurrection.

Jesus was open to his surroundings even though many were opposed to everything he stood for. He was quick to go beyond whatever prevented him from  showing love and mercy. Everybody,no matter where they were, had the possibility of experiencing freedom by taking his words and actions to heart.

We find in life those who want others to laugh and have to fear for their life. This is true especially for entertainers and comics who are often closely scrutinized for what they say. Some sensitive religious people can also overly scrutinize movies that are seen as slightly defaming of religion, with the result, sometimes, of inciting a movement to censor the movie. There are times when some religious symbols are made light of  with no desire to ridicule them, but some are moved to 'kill' the perpetrators.

What is the reason for this? Is it a case of a black and white approach to life? Or is it the difficulty of living in our competitive society? Are we losing the ability to laugh. One reason suggested by the columnist is a lack of love and, consequently, little toleration for others who are not like us, not accepting them with with respect and honor and an inability to accept their perceived weaknesses or foibles with humor. 

More disconcerting than our sometimes overzealous desire for knowing the truth is our fanatically unhealthy attachment to the truth when we finally believe we know the truth, disparaging truths that seem out of line with ours. In good faith we need to  respect the certainty of another, but selfishness cuts us off from the other by our lack of good will. Reasons for my certainty should allow me to acknowledge reasons and grounds for the certainty of the other. Rather than trying to convince the other by love, we condemn and use pressure in attacking the views of the other. This tires out both parties to the dispute. When we are asked to laugh, let us laugh and after we laugh it is not too late to return to the dispute, refreshed. 

Translating this column I liked what was said, but I wonder if all was said that could have been said and should have been said. An important topic, but one that  needed more words than were used, granting that the  attempt at the summary had serious problems, and yet I thought it worth the effort.

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