One of my favorite comedians died yesterday. I believe Jonathan Winters is in heaven because I have long believed there is a special place there for those who make us laugh. After all, that special gift helps the rest of us deal with a life that is often at least perplexing if not painful.
Religion and spirituality can become very serious. Thus, we must all balance profound wonderings about the meaning of life, the reasons for suffering, etc., with some healthy laughter.
One can find humor in sacred writings. In the Old Testament, for instance, is the very funny story about Balaam and the talking donkey (Numbers 22: 28-30). That story is even more funny if you give the donkey Eddie Murphy’s voice from Shrek.
Buddhism seems at ease with laughter since we have the wonderful image of the Laughing Buddha. Christianity unfortunately has cast Jesus in a very serious light. He often appears humorless and angry. Yet I have to believe he had a sense of humor because children found him so approachable. Yes, Jesus wept. But I have to believe Jesus laughed as well. (Some years ago, there was a popular painting of the Laughing Jesus. the artist’s heart was in the right place but Jesus looked an awful lot like Willie Nelson.)
So my list of spiritual mentors include the likes of Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Lawrence Kushner. But that list also includes Jack Benny, Bill Cosby, and George Carlin. And of course Jonathan Winters.
Further reflection: 1. Where does laughter fit into you spiritual practice?
Further viewing: Here are a few favorite excerpts from some of my spiritual mentors:
Johnathan Winters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwWDa1xPTPA
George Carlin (one of my all-time favorite routines!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmXacL0Uny0
Bill Cosby (a classic retelling of a religious story): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bputeFGXEjA