Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Humor and hope

Randy Pausch, knowing that he is dying of cancer, writes, “It’s not helpful to spend every day dreading tomorrow” (The Last Lecture, with Jeffrey Zaslow (New York: Hyperion, 2008), p. 99). He also emphasizes the importance of having fun in life (pp. 179-182) and of taking time off for vacations ((p. 110).

Every charismatic person I’ve met, who is able to attract crowds, had a good sense of humor and enjoyed life. Jesus, I’m convinced, must have had a good sense of humor and found fun in living. Otherwise, people would not have flocked to hear his message nor abandoned family, friends, and occupation to follow him. An extensive editing process lies behind each of the four gospels (the New Testament’s biographies of Jesus). Christians read the gospels through religious eyes that expect seriousness and not humor (we wrongly associate the sacred with the non-humorous).

Living a fully human life means living a life that has its share of humor and joy, taking time to enjoy the people and the world in which God has placed us.

Nearly a hundred and fifty years ago a famous Russian rabbi was celebrated for his quick wit in always having a pertinent story no matter what subject came up. "Rabbi, tell us," one of his students asked, "How to you manage to do it?"

The rabbi smiled. "I'll explain it with a story. Once, an infamous anti-Semitic Russian general was riding at the head of his troops through a small Jewish shtetl when he came to a long fence painted with more than twenty targets, colored circles.

"Marvelous to relate, in the bull's-eye of every one was a bullet hole. They never varied from dead center by so much as a fraction of an inch. The general was amazed. He had never seen such marksmanship and ordered his lieutenant to bring him the marksman.

"The local shoemaker's son, a pale and trembling youth, was shoved forward. 'Did you do that shooting?' the general asked. 'Yes, Excellency.'

"'It's astonishing! How many months have you been practicing?'

"'Never, Excellency. I never practiced. I did it the first time I ever held a gun.'

"'Then how did you hit the bull's-eye with every shot?'

"'That isn't the way I did it. I merely shot at the fence and then painted targets around every bullet hole.'"

The rabbi chuckled, "It's the same system I use. I'm never at a loss for a story to fit a subject. First, I carefully introduce a subject for which I already have the perfect story ready." (A. Stanley Kramer, World’s Best Jewish Humor (New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1994), pp. 30-31)

Is your humor ready?

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