June 11, 2010

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

God must have a really great sense of humor!

Cynthia DewesIt’s always seemed to me that God must have a great sense of humor. If we are made in God’s image and can come up with the weird and hilarious stuff we do, it must come from somewhere beyond us. Surely, we couldn’t think up these things all by our imperfect human selves.

Advertising offers a rich display of craziness. We see a gecko, one of the ugliest little critters ever, speaking to us on TV in a clever Australian accent. We also see grizzly bears, horses and other oddly assorted animals sitting around discussing their vacation plans. We see frantic ducks yelling the mysterious refrain, ”Aflac!” everywhere and, of course, apes of every variety doing whatever humans do, only funnier.

Besides those who create nutty stuff out of the animal world, there is the amusing “duh” group of “sharp thinkers” who seem to be growing in numbers across the globe. These include the guys who rob convenience stores immediately after using their credit card to buy something, rocket scientists who inadvertently burn themselves while trying to fake insurance fires, and art thieves who try to fence major works of the French Impressionists on e-Bay.

Entire comedy series are dedicated to the clueless, as in the former “Seinfeld” with its collection of social, economic and dysfunctional losers. Elaine’s dancing, George’s sorry attempts at love relationships and Kramer’s failed money schemes gave us hours of television laughter.

Jerry Seinfeld has continued the idea in his new “reality” TV series called “The Marriage Ref.” Here the audience meets supposedly real married couples with “problems” like disputes over having a shrine to a dead pet in their living room. It’s unreal and silly, but idiocy draws viewers. Come to think of it, maybe emotional catharsis is the idea behind it.

Then we have the 13-year-old kid who climbs Mount Everest, having previously climbed Mount Kilimanjaro at age 9. Sir Edmund Hillary would be so proud, wouldn’t he? And there are always the celebrated daredevils bungee-jumping off cliffs or leaping across canyons on motorcycles.

Other humans we can only marvel at include people who misunderstand their place in the universe, like the fellow who went “Into the Wild” of Alaska and died. He just didn’t understand the needs of basic human survival. Or the animal trainer who thought she had befriended a whale, only to have it kill her one day, or the fellow who thought he had made a pet of a wild bear until it ate him.

Irony, incongruity, surprise and all the other elements of humorous expression abound. It’s true, some of them can be mean, even vicious. There will always be people who can’t resist racial or ethnic bad jokes, hurtful pranks and the like. But the Godlike part of our sense of humor creates joy, only joy.

Recently, a friend of ours wrote us an e-mail titled “My Death.” It described her illness and her acceptance of a rapidly approaching death. But rather than being a gloomy pity-party, it was an affirmation of her joyous and faithful approach to life—and death.

With her customary cheer, she was encouraging her friends to share her joyous anticipation of what lay ahead. She was inspiring us to view the situation with God’s eyes.

I think that’s why God shares a sense of humor with us—not only to bring us joy, but also to demonstrate how to give joy to others.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

Local site Links: