The Truth Is Laughter


Is humour something we construct to help us survive?

Photo © Tiburon Studios/iStockPhoto

by Susan McCaslin

Some Reflections on Chapter 2 of my new book, Arousing the Spirit (Wood Lake Publishing).

In Chapter Two of Arousing the Spirit, “Jester Jesus,” I explore some of the ramifications of Jesus’ keen wit and earthy sense of humour. I try to establish not only that the Galilean had a funny bone, but that he wasn’t a cardboard figure in sandals with a plastic smile.

It seems to me we’ve heard a lot more about the joyless Jesus than the joyful one. Yet his hyperbolic metaphors, like that of someone straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel are belly-achingly good, if we can only hear them in a fresh way. Custom has buried them under centuries of false piety.

The Coptic Gospel of Peter pictures Jesus laughing above the cross. And in the canonical gospels, you can check out some of his parables, his quips, his verbal tricks. Jesus is a trickster who can’t be tied down, a liminal figure, that is, someone dancing at the edges and boundaries of convention.

And perhaps this is a quality of all the great teachers. Even Plato had his wry “Socratic ironies,” his ribald jokes. Rabbi Hillel, a contemporary of Jesus, was a barrel of laughs, a sort of Chaplenesque figure of his time, and Jesus, surely the holy fool, the clown of God. St. Francis picked up on this playful quality of the Galilean, his supreme role model.

I’d like to expand the frame a bit beyond the sayings and stories of Jesus and his legacy to throw out a question about the humour of the very universe itself.

Is humour something we construct to help us survive? Or does universal mind or creative intelligence, the unnameable, imageless source from which everything comes, have a sense of humour? Is there a form of cosmic laughter that doesn’t just make puny us the butt of a joke? How do we get in on the laughter? How do we begin to dance or twirl like Sufis?

At the quantum level, is the universe playing a game of hide and seek with itself in the apparent gap between time and eternity, a kind of peek a boo game? Hindus talk of the Akashic field where we co-create with the divine. Is life more like play than absolutely serious business, or is it both?

My thesis advisor, poet Robin Blaser said, “The truth is laughter.” Any takers on the resonance of his words?

Susan McCaslin is a prize-winning poet and author of eleven volumes of poetry. Susan is Faculty Emeritus of Douglas College where she taught English and Creative Writing for twenty-three years. She lives in Fort Langley, British Columbia. Visit her website at www.susanmccaslin.ca.

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Categories: Religion, Susan McCaslin

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2 Comments on “The Truth Is Laughter”

  1. Barb Taft
    January 21, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    I immediately thought of the hymn ” Give To Us Laughter” by Walter Farquharson.
    He speaks ofthe Source of Life giving usd laughter in so many areas of living .

  2. January 22, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    Thanks for reminding me of this hymn, Barb, and for bringing the element of music to the discussion. Right on! I may use this song in one of my workshops on Jester Jesus.

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