Humor and Humanity — spirituality with a punch line

Humor has always been a key element in my own sense of the divine, of my view of spirituality.  Humor has often alerted me to a sense of community.  Humor has often been a crack in the door to mystery and wonder.

When I joined Shawnee Mission Unitarian Church, April 1, 2012, now six years ago, I chose the date carefully.  I take joining groups pretty seriously.  If I’m agreeing to be a part of some group, I am agreeing to take part in that group, and I’m making a commitment.  Commitments are never something to be taken lightly.  That was even more keenly felt when I joined SMUUCh.  I had been part of All Souls Church in KCMO, but had left that church.  This blog began as my response to that leaving — in a sense, I was still part of that community, but felt very much on my own.  That relationship had frayed, at the very least, and I’m not one to jump into a new relation easily.  But when I realized that April 1 was a Sunday, and I could join SMUUCh on that day, well, I jumped at the chance.  In making that move, I wanted to make it on a day that held some significance.  I joined my first Unitarian church on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a day that spoke to me of my Catholic upbringing, and also of a beautiful miracle, the miracle of the roses.  When I joined All Souls Church, I did so around All Souls Day, another Catholic feast day I had honored from youth, and a name that resonated with the church I was joining.

So, when I joined SMUUCh, I didn’t want it to be just any day.  It had to be a special day.  And April Fools’ Day is such a day for me.  It was not always so.  As a kid, and someone who had been bullied a bit, I dreaded a day when I knew people would be making fun at my expense.  I didn’t like that.  But as an adult, I’ve come to embrace my inner fool, and been more able to laugh at myself.  I’m a big fan of comedies, and especially stand-up.  Fooling around is serious business, and doing comedy well is a service to the world.  And so, April Fools’ Day seemed just the right day to sign the book at SMUUCh.

I had a special t-shirt made for the day — on the front, a large orange ?, on the back, a large purple !.  It was a way to announce myself as a questioner, but an enthusiastic one, and one with a foolish streak.

When I delivered my first service at SMUUch, on February 28, 2013, I entitled the service “From eeuhnnh to (h)aha, with (h)alleluia(h)s.”  In that service, I wanted to introduce myself to someone who “lived for revelation.”  And I wanted to demonstrate my path to revelation — something that cannot be got to through normal channels.  The hymns that day were all “alleluias” of one sort or another — they contained no other words — I was looking for feeling and experience, not meaning.  Leonard Cohen’s song, “Hallelujah” was the offertory song.  A passage from The Color Purple — the one that gives the novel the title — was one of the readings — a passage all about the wonder of the natural world.  And there was some humor too.

As I look over my life, there are some constants:

  • I do look for revelation every day.  I don’t do so, planning to do so, but rather by staying open as much as I can, so that, when the world surprises me with wonder, I can have that aha moment.
  • I think that humor is, for me, a key path to revelation.  There is a rational, scientific truth in the world, but it’s far too easy for thinkers to get caught up in their thoughts, so the thoughts serve as a barrier to some greater understanding.  Humor is all about short-circuiting that.  Freud spoke of this in his Jokes and their Relationship to the Unconscious.
  • For that humor to work miracles, and to reveal the wonder of the world, it cannot be negative.  Sarcasm often cuts deeper than any physical blow, and one must be very careful with it.  Even if sarcasm can point to some truth beyond, its method alienates others, and takes its toll on community.  I have little use for revelation in isolation.  I want my wonder shared. Irony can be kinder, gentler, and more revelatory.

And so, on this April Fools’ Day (also Easter, as it turns out — it was at an Easter service I decided I would join a Unitarian Church [though I didn’t join until December 12]), I wish for each of you some silliness (silly is related to the German word “selig” which means “blessed”), some wonder, and some revelation.

1 Response to “Humor and Humanity — spirituality with a punch line”

  1. 1 Carla Norcott-Mahany
    April 1, 2018 at 10:16 am

    It is good to be April foolish! Thank you for this reminder.

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