Would you agree that we probably don’t laugh enough? I’ve written before about laughing clubs, which began in India and are in fact a form of yoga. There are several laughing clubs in the Washington area, should you feel a need for organized laughter. And the health benefits of laughter are known and studied, should you want to feel justified in laughing. This all came to mind as I was remembering how much my daughter laughed at the phrase in the second verse of “Jingle bells” (what, you didn’t know there was a second verse?) that says, the horse was lean and lank, misfortune seemed his lot. We got into a drifted bank and then we got upsot. “UPSOT”? she would shriek.
I’m particularly grateful for two recent opportunities to laugh more than usual. Tears running down the cheeks kind of laughter. Last Friday’s performance by comedian and political satirist Mark Russell on our Arts@Midday series was one of those occasions. How often do we get to laugh about health care, Supreme Court rulings, political compromise or lack thereof …?
Another was a few months ago when a few people gathered in Virginia for a retreat around creativity. The organizers decided that the Virgin Mary would provide the inspiration for the retreat, and we dutifully prayed and sang about Mary in the morning. In the afternoon we broke up into small groups and were charged with creating a project that related to Mary in any way we wanted. What happened next surprised everyone I think. Three groups of people, working on three different projects, each found themselves laughing. Not just polite laughter, but really joyful, full-hearted laughter. Mary had indeed inspired all of us – to laugh! Mary, as the source of incarnational creativity, also became the source of humor and fun, and I couldn’t help but think she was pleased with that. It would take far too much background information to explain why we created a three-dimensional art project that had a sign pointing the way to a wedding over a manger, or a two-dimensional work that used feathers and sequins and, if I may say so, exposed a more flamboyant side of Mary. And there’s really no way to explain here that the refrain on a song composed that afternoon – What’s so great about being a virgin anyway? – came from a frequent and well meaning conversation between my Catholic-born mother and Hindu father. Please tell me that made you laugh. I’m a little worried that I may have offended some, and honestly, there was not a moment of disrespect for our Lady that afternoon.
This coming Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and one that is traditionally focused more on Mary, mother of Jesus, and the great gift she gave to us all in her son. There was a day not so long ago when she also gave a few people the gift of laughter, and I have a feeling that is a gift she would like for us to pass along to others.
It is completely inappropriate for a liturgical musician to be sending out the link below during Advent, but it made me laugh out loud and I allowed laughter to trump liturgical rectitude. I think Mary might approve.