Monday, April 13, 2009

It may not seem a time for jokes, but there is a long tradition of laughter at Easter

From the Londodn Guardian-

As Thought for the Day begins on Radio 4, there's often a sudden shift from the relaxed style of the main presenters to the slightly solemn preaching mode of the religious speaker. Rabbi Lionel Blue might be able to achieve a light-hearted humour, but the mainly Christian speakers tend to come over as a bit po-faced. It's a big turn-off, probably literally so for many listeners. So, is there something deeply incompatible about Christianity and humour?

As St Chrysostom wrote in the fourth century: "Jesus wept, both over Lazarus and over the city, and he was deeply moved over the fate of Judas. And this indeed one may often see him do, but nowhere laugh nor smile even a little." Chrysostom recommends his hearers to weep over their sins, and so be saved.

Umberto Eco picked up this theme in his novel The Name of the Rose, in which he imagined the fanatical monk Jorge de Burgos taking extreme measures to prevent Aristotle's long-lost book on comedy becoming known, because, as he says to the monk-detective William of Baskerville, "if one day someone, brandishing the words of the Philosopher ... were to raise the art of laughter to the condition of a subtle weapon, if the rhetoric of conviction were to be replaced by the rhetoric of mockery, if the topic of the patient construction of the images of redemption were to be replaced by the topic of the impatient dismantling and upsetting of every holy and venerable image - oh, on that day, even you, William, and all your knowledge, would be swept away!"

More here-

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