Tuesday, May 29, 2018

send lawyers, guns and money: humor as a way into spiritual wisdom and peace

One of the ways I stay grounded - even in a shit storm - is with self-deprecating humor. I am not a fan of sarcasm. It is veiled cruelty. I have no room in my life for jokes that hurt others, shame others, wound others or make others the victim of my intellect or power. Rather, like the Holy Fool Nazruddin of the Sufi world, I am called to laugh at myself and share my foibles out loud in public. For in this, maybe those I love might see their own failings and move towards a bit of humility. A favorite tale of the Sacred Fool goes like this:

One afternoon, Nasruddin and his friend were sitting in a cafe, drinking tea and talking about life and love. His friend asked: “How come you never married?”

“Well,” said Nasruddin, “to tell you the truth, I spent my youth looking for the perfect woman. In Cairo I met a beautiful and intelligent woman, but she was unkind. Then in Baghdad, I met a woman who was a wonderful and generous soul, but we had no common interests. One woman after another would seem just right, but there would always be something missing. Then, one day, I met her. Beautiful, intelligent, generous and kind. We had very much in common. In fact, she was perfect!”

“What happened?” asked Nasruddin’s friend, “Why didn’t you marry her?” Nasruddin sipped his tea reflectively. “Well,” he replied, “it’s really the sad story of my life…. It seemed she was looking for the perfect man…


When I can step back and see how my wounds, failings, obsessions and limited vision are throwing me into a tailspin, then new insights are bound to follow. It takes time. Silence. Trust. Love. And practice. I think poet and pastor, Maren Tirabassi, got it right when she riffed on one of her favorite prayers.

God grant me the laughter –
to accept the things I cannot change,
the patience to keep on and keep on
and keep on and keep on
changing the things I can,
and the friends to help me
when I cannot tell the difference,
or when my wisdom
has soured into self-importance.
Then, too, God, laughter will help. Amen.

Today, after a glorious time of musical practice, I was thrown a curve ball. For a few hours, I let it drive me crazy. Then I shared my fears and shame with my beloved and we laughed at it together. In silence I was later able to take it to the One who is Holy and ask for the grace to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed and the wisdom to know the difference. Humor, for me, is a spiritual discipline. Not all humor. Just the type that opens me up to my humanity and encourages me to trust God more than my self, my shame, or my fears. My man, the late Warren Zevon, cut to the chase in this self-deprecating, rock and roll confession...

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