I recently finished reading the book "Between Heaven and Mirth", by James Martin, S.J. Its thesis is - in essence - that people of faith can use a little dose of humor; and that humor helps in the journey of faith.
Lo, to my surprise, I ran across a passage that made me laugh - which is sort of the point of the whole book. The passage links two of my passions: Humor and Community... Here is an edited version of it for your enJoyment:
Humor and community are intimately linked.
In an intuitive way, we get the feeling that jokes are best enjoyed in the company of friends. We tell them at school, at work, at the bar, and at home. They demonstrate intimacy, trust, and a sense of togetherness among those who both tell jokes and listen to them.
Thus one of the most important elements of humor is the intimate connection it fosters among the members of a community. Through jokes we also show our affection for the people who are most important in our lives. By joking with other people we are, in effect, taking care of them and simultaneously telling them that we love them. And by inviting more people to share the same joke, our community expands and becomes more open to the presence of others.
Jokes affirm a group’s identity and, at the same time, make that community far richer by attracting new members. Yet the importance of humor extends further.
Jokes and humor may also be viewed as evidence of changes that occur in the community over time. They point to a shared history, a common past that consists of a litany of dangers, trials, and occasional bouts of real suffering and genuine hardship.
Humor does more than simply “smooth over” or “take the edge off” these rough times. It literally reverses the sentiment of despair into its opposite: hope. Humor thus performs the Janus-like task of looking backwards and forwards in time. It recalls the past, and it sets it squarely before our gaze.
Yet humor, the language of hope and joy, turns our eyes even more resolutely toward the future. By telling a joke we affirm that our relationships are vitally healthy and ongoing, and thus open to change, to further development, to continual deepening...
Wow. This is serious. And funny. Seriously funny maybe... So, next time you are in one of those tense moments in a community meeting, gathering, or dialogue, remember why the duck crossed the road. (I understand that chickens have filed a class action suit, so I thought I'd give them a break.)