I wake up late this morning, not yet finding myself holding on to the monastic ideal of little sleep, finding instead a difference of opinion which may last. Jesus, it is said, woke up before light. He also, it is not clearly noted, went to sleep soon after dark. When electric light cannot artificially illuminate, bedtimes become earlier. So, late I went to sleep, and late I awoke, feeling a bit groggy, to be honest, but happy at what became one of my more social days in a while.
It is a warm day in the mountains, warmer most likely than in the valleys. Shorts and a t-shirt suffice. A wonderful wind blows, lifting my windsock up and out, rustling the fabric against the rail, swishing. I hear less birds this morning, though I admit my later start likely means I missed the morning concert. It is Spring, and it is beautiful.
There is another note of contrast I feel when reading the ancients. Laughter and levity was, for them, a sign of a weak soul, empty and not rightly focusing on Christ. One of my favorite scenes in Gibson’s The Passion, is Jesus building the table and laughing with Mary. His laughter and gentle teasing contrasted with the pain of the crucifixion. The key point, though, is that both are fully in keeping with his nature.
Romans tells us that the nature of God is evident from the environment, indeed so much so that even without knowledge of Christ, humanity is culpable for not knowing God. It’s right before them. Only those who do not look, who do not care, will not see among this evidence that included with God’s many traits is a sense of humor. Ravens tease dogs, animals play, dolphins laugh and make simple jokes. We can laugh at how some animals look, what they do, even though the natural world is also one of great seriousness and danger.
I say this because among the conversations I had yesterday one was with someone who is, I’m willing to admit, possibly funnier than I am. At least, I realized in my solitude my own wit has dulled, and being around those who can sharpen it once more is like bathing in an oasis after wandering through the desert. Unlike the monks, I think this is a fine aspect. Wit and humor, like any boon, can be turned to sin and worse. It can bite, and flay. However, it also is a way of looking at the world, of acknowledging that within even pain is a certain amount of absurdity. Not all is as it appears, and pointing out the fact strikes us oftentimes as humor.
I feel challenged by seeing my own waning gifts in this regard, though also excited about restoring it to what, I might say, was once quite the splendor. I have to quit the knock-knock jokes, and get myself back into witty shape.
God, I think, and assert, simply cannot be understood without having a certain measure of humor. The monks, I say humbly, were wrong in this regard, and lost a great aspect of the lives God had called them after. Nature, at times, was also lost by them, another trait which is not in their interest. A story is told of a woman hermit who lived by a river for twenty years, and never once looked at it, this being noted as a sign of her devotion to God. I see it as an act of rudeness to an artist. Who would walk through a great painter’s house and not comment on the works displayed?
The fullness of humanity, created in the image of God, contains within it both a desire for beauty and a love of humor and laughter. We laugh because the Spirit in us gives us this gift. In humor, laughter, and wit which is uplifting and without malice we exhibit an essence of the image of God.
For me, experiencing wit and laughter is much the same as looking at an amazing sunset or gazing at the intricacy of a flower in bloom. It is beauty, and draws in my soul, helping it to expand. Even with my own waning sense I delight, just as I delighting when I first came up to the mountains and began a process of relearning an intricate appreciation of nature. I want to surround myself with both, and in doing this would find life agreeable, most agreeable indeed, whatever else may result.
The secret of contentment is understanding, at all points, the fullness of the Divine. God has much which is unexplainable and confusing. With this, however, he also has much which is welcomed and wonderful. Beauty and truth and laughter are among these, and I want to be around those who display these aspects, and display them to others. For in seeing these in others, I see also God. When others see these in me, they see the goodness that God can work in restoring one who was fallen into an increasing likeness of himself. It is right to be watchful, and alert. It is also right to take joy and delight in this life that God has gifted us to live. A lovely lesson, a lovely day.
Today is one of reflection, and returning to those quiet tasks which God has certainly given me. I embrace them anew today, with God’s grace and pleasure.