Having grown up amid the austerity and incense of Roman Catholicism, I was quite astonished when I discovered that some religious traditions see laughter as a door to the sacred. As I’ve said before in this blog, Catholicism left innumerable positive imprints on my psyche, but an understanding of humor was not one of them. As a child, I thought of jokes, fun, and silliness as diametrically opposed to the whole sober, majestic enterprise of religion. One did not laugh during mass.
Discovering the Trickster was an awakening. I could imagine God as a warrior, a buffalo, an elephant-headed man, and a woman. But as a buffoon? Major cognitive dissonance. But there they were—all these characters from throughout the world. Adapa of Akkadia, the laughingstock of the gods. The Greek Trickster goddess Baubo telling dirty jokes to make a grieving Demeter laugh. Eshu of the Yoruba people stealing yams from a High God, using the god’s own shoes to make footprints in the garden, and convincing the god he stole the yams himself. Best of all, the Winnebago Wakjunga, who farts and poops his way through one story after the other, breaking every notion of propriety humans can come up with.
One Egyptian creation myth says the human soul was created through divine laughter, and I think it’s true. Humor explodes our preconceptions, breaks the bounds of reason, and makes light of our world view. It deflates pomposity and makes us humble. It shines a light on what is wrong, and jars us out of the status quo. Baptist minister Susan Sparks calls it “the GPS system of the soul.”
I’ve never figured out how to use humor to gain entry into the sacred. I don’t know the way to inject laughter into my spiritual life. I tend to go for the somber, the ceremonial, the mysterious: I think of spiritual practice as challenging, healing, enlightening, and uplifting, but never, ever as funny. It’s something I need to work at. To figure out. Somewhere on my path, I’m sure the Trickster is waiting, ready to jump out when I least expect.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...