Monday, July 8, 2013

laughter ... not for the first time

I am far from knowing the endless nooks and crannies of spiritual life as portrayed in text and scripture. And it is within that pool of ignorance that I assume what I probably should not ... but do anyway, like a dog gnawing on a bone:

Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus, Zoroaster, Moses or any of the other expositors whose names I have forgotten or do not know...

Each is portrayed by faithful biographers or inventive stenographers or institutionally loyal followers as loving, caring, weeping, righteous, indignant, wise, compassionate, and possessed of healing or magical abilities that left others agog. Their capacities were praise-worthy and huge... and far from the madding, supplicant crowd.

And yet, not for the first time, I wonder that there may be no text or tale that portrays these men as laughing. The dearth of laughter, if dearth it be, strikes me as hugely strange. Perhaps it is merely indicative of those who later told the scriptural tales ... a group for whom, perhaps, there was so much difficulty and sorrow in life that laughter might have appeared insulting or, worse yet, utterly unattainable.

Laughter lets go, but religion and its supplicants hold on. So perhaps laughter would be too much like offering a drowning man a much-need life boat that was riddled with obvious, snickering holes.

How inspiring to match my kindness or clarity or sorrow or abracadabra against a greater yardstick, the yardstick of a wondrous seer or teacher. How short I fall! How far I have to go!

But what supplicant, when awash in a world of uncertainty or sorrow, might not imagine wistfully a world in which laughter claimed the scene ... an amen world that wasn't quite so goddamned well-pressed and pristine? Sure, serenity and peace and even-tempered appreciations and profound insight might be nice, but where's the laughter?

True, laughter sometimes resides in contrast and cruelty, two characteristics that might be 'beneath' the over-arching serenity of the anointed. But whatever the fuse that lights the firecracker of laughter ... having entered, there is no longer compare or contrast, cruelty or kindness. There is laughter and ... well... hot damn!

I'm not sure that I can put much faith in a (wo)man who does not laugh ... or whose biographers and re-inventors neglect the capacity and wonder of laughter. Something's missing in my book. But then my book is laughably short on understanding.

"Laughably short" and it's OK with me. "Laughably short" is still laughable and there is something trustworthy about laughter. There is no place to hide and not-hiding is more realistic.

When I asked my Zen teacher to compare how his practice was in the beginning with how it was later on, he said, "In the beginning, it was very hard. Now, it is laughing all the time."

Can I pretend like some latter-day re-inventor of wise tales to know precisely and serenely and pussy-perfectly what he meant?

Certainly not.

But I can laugh.

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