Lent (Day 13) — more on “Happiness Attracts”

Continuing along in Ch. 3 of James Martin’s Between Heaven and Mirth, “Happiness Attracts,” we encounter 3 more serious reasons for good humor:

4: Humor speaks truth to power.  This is the job of humor for many stand-up comics, especially those with a political bent.  It is very easy to get caught up in the serious positions of political power, but to lose sight of the bigger picture.  In poking fun at the powerful, we release their power over us, but also let the powerful see another way as well.  He tells a story of a woman in a hospital who humorously responded to a bishop’s unctuous remarks, and that led to the two having a long friendship, for her humor got past his position to the man inside.

5: Humor shows courage — here we get the humor of martyrs, as they bravely go to their deaths.  Though some of the stories are funny, this section seemed the most half-baked.  I think that humor shows generosity, and that generosity demonstrates a bit of courage, for we are saying to our tormentors that we don’t hate them (and that’s a big order), and that we don’t accept the situation which suggest that they hold power over us.

6: Humor deepens our relationship with God — reflecting on the idea of God as parent, and how parents often play with their kids, Martin suggests we should imagine a playful God.  That is a rather strong theological statement, and a powerful one.  For with a playful God, it is easier to imagine a loving figure, rather than a stern figure of judgment.  He quotes an Indian Jesuit as saying, “Look at God looking at you…. and smiling.”  That’s a powerful statement as well.  In some ways it reminds me of the Morning Offering of my youth, which is a prayer of submission — I’m ready to do my part.  But behind that I’m ready to do my part is the idea that my part is important.  And that fits in with the idea of God looking at each of us and smiling.  

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