Divine Humor

Quite obviously, divine humor is not by me, as the title and byline may imply. I also sense a few wrinkled brows among our readers. Can humor be divine? The question is not unreasonable: the prophets of our Lord certainly had little to laugh about. Moreover, religion has hardly been the stuff to engender a smile or a giggle.

Enter the Dalai Lama, who is seen to giggle a great deal. One wonders why. A plausible answer could be that His Royal Highness is exceedingly nervous in the face of an impossible world. Hence the giggle. I also have a delightful book on my shelves by one Christmas Humphries. It is all about Zen Buddhism. Mr. Humphries offers a dedication to his wife who, I quote, “laughed in all the right places.” Mr. Humphries informs us of the concept of the sound of one hand clapping and we are reminded of our own Queen Elizabeth who exercises the notion at all times as she waves regally to her subjects when out driving in her state carriage. She may be giving half measure, but her subjects respond with two hands in full.

But divine humor…? Why not? We are informed that God is the sponsor of all life and all endeavor; thus, why not, indeed, divine humor?

It has occurred to this writer that we may wish to consider divine charisma. Naturally, one cannot actually purchase divine charisma, and nor can one use magic to conjure it up! However, and please bear with me, I would suggest, nay insist, that one can be instrument in manifesting it.

My explanation may hopefully point to something we adults are happy to make – or at least bring on a smile.

I speak, here, of babies, and would contend that they could easily lead us to a point of enlightenment.

Being a parent is in reality about as high as you can consciously go. I say in reality because we are talking about involvement with another human being. This not about me; this is about we. This means you, the aspirant, and your baby, your spiritual teacher.

I’ve been thinking about Zen. Don’t worry, that was the cosmic giggle you just heard, too. Zen is about doing what you do. Am I right? George Bernard Shaw’s, “He who can does, he who cannot, teaches,” just about sums it up (not that you are supposed to sum things up, but even so…). Forget teachers and teaching. Shaw obviously didn’t mean them, or that. GBS was into Zen, but he didn’t know it. The Japanese Zen master, Dr. Suzuki, may have been enlightened but could not have put it better. On the other hand, Dr. Suzuki would probably not have bothered.

Please consider the advantage of transcending this world. Your baby could help.

Obedience is the keyword, but it will go against the grain. Nobody wants to be obedient. We figure that to have a life, we need an opinion; we need to call the shots. But if having babies is what you do, you need to rethink, maybe unthink, the rules.

Did you ever consider obeying your baby?

“What can he mean?” you will be forgiven for asking. But that’s the point. Your baby is already working on you and is getting you nicely softened and shaped. Already your brain is dissolving in a mental meltdown. Suddenly you are feeling about things. Thinking is sort of a long way away, like your thoughts are down a deep well. You are no longer really thinking at all. It’s suddenly all a ghost-like echo of things learned, and all pretty irrelevant at that. Congratulations! You have a head that is full, however, of awful awareness. The trick is to turn the awfulness into positive action.

You are suddenly Mr. and Mrs. Awareness. You watch your baby because, let’s be honest, you can’t drag your eyes away, anyway. And that goes for visitors, too. Everybody is suddenly on their best behavior when a baby is nigh. Ladies utter goo-goo stuff, waggling fingers. Men stand around in the background, awkwardly, looking worried, thinking about doing a second job. The baby is socking out waves of something or other that is indefinable but real. This is charisma of the highest order. The baby has caught your attention, has got you focused and it isn’t even trying. One lopsided toothless grin, and you are going to fall apart. Your baby has got God on his or her side.

Somebody once said, “The real children of God know not what they do.”

Here is the message. Imagine your baby carrying that kind of charisma right on into adulthood. Well, we have all probably countenanced the notion of never growing up. But could you accept the idea that babies are already grown up, and that we adults have sometimes (sorry about this) simply hung around, done maturity in reverse, and accumulated a lot of juvenile junk?

It goes like this. You are gazing at your baby and you hate the idea of your baby growing up and having all of those “experiences” that the experts tell you are necessary for someone to become old and adjusted. An old Hindi proverb puts it thus: “Living life through experience is the most bitter of ways.” It means you are constantly reaching back into the past to find answers for today. Come on, can you imagine your baby smoking a cigarette? Do you want your baby to experience hardship, divorce, anger, being overweight? Do you want your baby to use bad language, or become a neighborhood flirt, or a kid who steals cars?

As an aside, this is not just social criticism I’m putting out because I must quickly state that this writer is as guilty as the rest in respect of just about all of the areas of human misdemeanor mentioned above. I feel better already.

OK, you don’t want your baby to have or experience all of the crud that makes life difficult. You don’t want your baby to smoke a cigarette because the idea is appalling. This is your baby’s way of telling you to stop smoking. Moreover, the baby hasn’t uttered a word. Hey, if that isn’t Zen, what then? It is all because your baby is not communicating in the usual way. Your baby has touched your feelings, nay, even your conscience. Babies are holy, that’s all. But they don’t know that they are holy and that makes them even holier.

Babies make us aware of what is bad for us. One exchange with a mystic I read went like this: “Do you love humankind?” asked the mystic. “Indeed I do,” replied the aspirant. “Then why,” said the mystic, “do you treat yourself so badly?”

What is happening, if you go along with the idea, is that the baby is helping you to clean up your act. This, by any reckoning has to be good. But there is an ongoing issue at stake and it is extremely appealing. If you can clean up your act you won’t have to give your baby any crud, or unmanageable appetites, later.

Right! Obey your baby and get transcended. Your in-laws may hate you, but you will not be adding a jot of personal chaos to our world. Your baby will grow up loving you, even if you don’t deserve it.

One thing I would counsel: never, ever, try to let your baby know what you know. Your baby won’t get it because a baby’s outflow of charisma is not of his or her own volition. Pressed to converse (assuming your baby has acquired a language before leaving the cot), the retort would be, “Oh, this is simply what I do.”

It all means that charisma from the right source, and exercised in a natural—may I suggest baby-like—way, could be the stuff of salvation.

We are all aware of the danger of walking the thin line between satire and sarcasm. Much of what we call humor is of the mind. It is calculated and often alludes to, and takes advantage of, the failings of others. One senses the sly wink and nudge when allusion is used. The certainty that the recipient of humor is part of the act, is in collusion. In such a case we become allies in negativity.

To be honest, a baby may not definitely make us laugh, although they often do, but they can easily bring about the rosy warmth that we love, which is, of course, the result of love. We are no longer talking about a jokey existence, but we must agree that a baby can lighten our day. A baby can, even, make humor possible. Babies have that special something that soon, unfortunately, gets lost to adults. Moreover, and as already mentioned, they don’t know that they are doing it. It means that their charisma must be the benefit of grace.

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