Everyone has heard the cliché that laughter is the best medicine but this tidbit of wisdom is far from a trivial piece of pop culture or self-help nonsense; it has been proven scientifically that it is the hospital patients with a sense of humour who survive and thrive. I know that for me, laughter has literally transformed my life, perhaps even saved my life.
My favourite thing about myself is that I can always laugh, even in the middle of a disaster. I can laugh at myself, life in general, the human condition and most especially I can laugh about the spiritual journey and inner life. The spiritual journey is intense but if we keep a sense of humour, it becomes much easier. A friend of Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, once asked him if it was possible to tell if another person had truly undergone spiritual, inner transformation.
“It is very difficult to tell but usually it is accompanied by a wonderful sense of humour.”
Humour, the ability to laugh at myself and not take myself too seriously, puts the process of inner transformation into perspective. If I am self-centered instead of God centered, everything becomes intense and dramatic. When I take my eyes off myself my faith, my religious practices, my spiritual ‘progress’, and look at my Saviour, everything comes back into the proper perspective. This inner healing is God’s work. Christ calls all me to surrender, trust and receive; receive the Light of God, surrender my inner darkness and trust in the power of Christ’s Love to redeem me. Period.
Naturally, most of the spiritual greats knew how to laugh. I mean think about it, when you are in a relationship with the Eternal, your life in comparison is rather hilarious. It is sort of like comparing the life of a man to that of a comical, self dramatizing ant. It follows that saints are not pale, morose souls with their eyes rolled up, gazing into the heavens; they are down-to earth, humble people who know how to laugh at their own ridiculous foibles. Look at St. Theresa of Avilia.While on a journey to visit one of her convents, a donkey threw this great doctor of the Church into a stream of freezing cold water. Standing in her water-logged, heavy habit, she yelled at God,
“If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!”
I smile every time a picture this scene of an outspoken, strong, unaffected woman with a quirky sense of humour because it is diametrically opposed to some of the pious, sappy looking paintings of her. Nope, sane saints know how to laugh at themselves and at life. Try it. Take a step back and laugh the next time life throws you into a cold stream instead of ranting or feeling sorry for yourself; it will change your life. It might even propel you into the arms of your laughing Father.