Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Is God Laughing At Us or With Us?

Does the Creator have a sense of humor? I don't see how one can avoid the conclusion, or humor would be deprived of its sufficient reason. It certainly has no Darwinian utility.

According to Koestler, there are exactly 29 references to humor -- or at least laughter -- in the Hebrew Bible. Interestingly, only two are "born out of a joyful and merry heart," while thirteen "are linked with scorn, derision, mocking, or contempt" -- with the sarcastic ha ha of Nelson Muntz.

However, I think we need to widen out our definition of humor, because much of what is humorous resides in the Human -- in Homo hoho -- not in the text or the situation per se. Funny things are everywhere, but it takes a funnyman to notice them -- to bring out the implicit connection that tickles the funny bone.

I've been reading Koestler's The Act of Creation, which regards humor as the equal of scientific discovery and artistic creation. You might say that each of these three quintessentially human activities has the identical deep structure.

Many people have noticed, for example, that the theory of anthropocentric global warming is a joke. Problem is, it is a bad joke, because instead of seeing an implicit connection between two frames of reference -- in this case, weather and human activity -- it just makes one up. So the humor is forced, like the severely cramped and restricted humor that is permitted in a politically correct world.

Or sometimes the PC world forbids seeing the real comedic connection, therefore barring certain subjects from ridicule for the purpose of sustaining power. This article, for example, explains why comedians have somehow failed to exploit the comedic goldmine that is Obama:

'We learn this from Jim Downey, the longtime Saturday Night Live specialist in political japery. "If I had to describe Obama as a comedy project, I would say, ‘Degree of difficulty, 10 point 10,’” the writer says in the expanded new edition of the “SNL” oral history book, “Live from New York.”

'“It’s like being a rock climber looking up at a thousand-foot-high face of solid obsidian, polished and oiled,” Downey says. “There’s not a single thing to grab onto — certainly not a flaw or hook that you can caricature."'

Okay. Least funny president ever:

"The charter Choom Ganger, confessed eater of dog and snorter of coke. The doofus who thinks the language spoken by Austrians is 'Austrian,' that you pronounce the p in 'corpsman' and that ATMs are the reason why job growth is sluggish. The egomaniac who gave the queen of England an iPod loaded with his own speeches and said he was better at everything than the people who work for him. The empty suit with so little real-world knowledge that he referred to his brief stint working for an ordinary profit-seeking company as time 'behind enemy lines.' The phony who tells everyone he’s from Chicago, though he didn’t live there until his 20s, and lets you know that he’s talking to people he believes to be stupid by droppin’ his g’s. The world-saving Kal-El from a distant solar system who told us he’d heal the planet and cause the oceans to stop rising. The guy who shared a middle name with one of the most hated dictators on earth."

And that just touches the surface: his Lovely Wife. The Mom Jeans. The intellectual and physical laziness. The pomposity. The corruption. The backwoods liberal insularity. The straw man arguments. The compulsive lying. The thin skin. The media sycophancy. The fascination with celebrity trash. The never ending campaign. The absurdly positive Pravda-esque pronouncements on the economy. The blaming of government as if he's not in charge of it. Not only is Obama an ass, he is a perfect ass.

Anyway, Koestler's book is the only one I know of that gives humor its proper due, and treats it with the metacosmic seriousness it deserves (which itself is kind of funny). In the subsequent week or so, I hope to not only plunder the book for all it's worth, but extend his arguments into some hitherto unexplored corners of cosmic merriment -- or in other words, illuminate the divine sense of humor, which Raccoons know subjectively as the guffah-HA! experience.

In many ways, the latter is what defines us, which is why a Raccoon has merely to read the blog's masthead to know in his bones that he's come to the right place -- that he has found a spiritual home, or at least a halfway decent flophouse.

But today I have only time enough to play a fundation. Let's see how far we can take the joke in our remaining moments.

The frontispiece of the book has a helpful cosmic cartography that looks like this:

What does it mean? How to interpret the pleasure map? First, it reads from left to right; or maybe from the center, with left and right hands. Basically, the left column belongs to the Jester, the center the Sage, and the right the Artist. The center sage has to do with truth, while the right has to do with beauty. With what does the left have to do?

Koestler doesn't exactly say, as he leaves a lot to the imagination. Getting awkwardly personal for a moment, there are a couple of things I might say. There is no post in which I do not attempt to convey truth, beauty, and humor. The latter is especially difficult to judge, since I can't hear the joyous peals of laughter from my precious lambs.

Koestler points out that the person crafting the joke doesn't have the same physical reaction as the one who hears it. How then does one detect the humor? "The person who invents the joke or comic idea seldom laughs in the process." In fact, it just occurred to me that some things are so funny that they are beyond funny. For example, I might react to a Perfect Tweet by Iowahawk not with laughter, but with an envious THAT'S FUCKING BRILLIANT!

However, the converse might occur with a particularly earth-shattering scientific discovery: it might literally provoke laughter, a spontaneous physical release upon perceiving the hitherto hidden connection. So right there we see that jokes can be serious while science can be a hoot.

And not only. I have also noticed that certain aesthetic experiences -- i.e., exposure to beauty -- may provoke laughter. In my case it often occurs with music. I might hear something that provokes a broad smile accompanied a spontaneous confession that this is ridiculous! In fact, it occurred last Sunday morning while listening to some gospel music. Here was one of the tunes:

The same song in a different style also made me grin:

So don't tell me God doesn't laugh.


julie said...

Those videos are great. Sister Rosetta reminds me of my grandma - at least, she did until she picked up the guitar. What a show!

Rick said...

I saw The Coz this weekend.
He's 76. Two hours. He did a second show later that day it was said.

julie said...

Speaking of humor, Sippican brings the funny today.

EbonyRaptor said...

Downey says. “There’s not a single thing to grab onto — certainly not a flaw or hook that you can caricature."

I find it hard to believe he truly believes that. Yes, willful blindness, but more likely old Soviet style doublethink.

Orwell was off by only 30 years.

EbonyRaptor said...

Seeing the bright eyed smile of a toddler brings laughter to everyone's heart and also to God I suspect.

EbonyRaptor said...

Sister Rosetta - yeah baby! I would like to have seen her in concert. That lady could sing to ya. Played a pretty good guitar too.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"However, I think we need to widen out our definition of humor, because much of what is humorous resides in the Human -- in Homo hoho -- not in the text or the situation per se. Funny things are everywhere, but it takes a funnyman to notice them -- to bring out the implicit connection that tickles the funny bone."

Aye. The PC mob are homo hohophobic. Ironically, there are some leftist comedians that hate PC in humor, although many seem to be okay with PC in everything else.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Besides PC, the envy n' bitterness of lefties would also explain why so many of them are devoid of any healthy sense of humor.
Not to mention their aversion to truth n' beauty.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Speakin' of making fun of or parodying Obama, what about his habitual "let me be clear" shtick?
Who in the hell ain't letting The Dense Won be clear?
Besides himself that is.

mushroom said...

The latter is especially difficult to judge, since I can't hear the joyous peals of laughter from my precious lambs.

A Larry King reference always worked for me.

I don't know how Burge does it. When I first ran across him doing his long-form TV parodies, I don't know that I laughed as much but I thought they were brilliant. To me he's even more guffaw-invoking in the short-form tweets.

I remember some comedian years ago talking about comedy writers. He described watching some professionals (mostly Jewish) sitting around a table working on material and hardly ever laughing. When a joke worked, they would say, "That's funny."

Skully said...

Obama is clear on some things. Fer instance, clearly he is a racist, clearly he hates Israel, clearly he loves golf, clearly he can't tell a truth, clearly he's an idiot, clearly he's a constipational scholar, clearly he loves Hamas and the MuzzyBruddahood, and clearly he doesn't like to save American lives except for deserters and thugs.

neal said...

The Humor of Christ by Elton Trueblood.
Nice book.

Born drowning, and learning to walk on water. Knock knock. Boats? We don't need no stinking boats.

Shine a light on a hill. Did not say which one, Simon says.

Christina M said...

I'm not as big a fan of Chesterton as I once was, but when I was thirty-eight, I read this and cried, because it was the first time I had ever thought that God might laugh. I've never been the same since.

"Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. And as I close this chaotic volume I open again the strange small book from which all Christianity came; and I am again haunted by a kind of confirmation. The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth. " ORTHODOXY

Joan of Argghh! said...

That piano player in Mahalia Jackson's version is IN on the joke. That's just fun!

I find that good instrumental jazz is full of jokes and good humor, too. And it's an inside joke of the best sort, like so much of the joy of our Christian walk contains.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Ah, I posted before I saw Christina's quote from GKC. A lovely congruence of ineffable knowing!

Coyote Joe said...

"When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth." -- George Bernard Shaw

"If you don't have a sense of humor, it just isn't funny." -- Wavy Gravy

julie said...

Off topic, Venezuelan socialists stoop to outright blasphemy. Somehow, I doubt those folks are likely to come to a good end...

NoMo said...

God's pure laughter was/is/will be the background music in the Garden and in Heaven. Here in our fallen time and space, not so much. Echoes, perhaps.

Leslie said...

I laugh hysterically when on a roller coaster, or other times when my adrenaline is flowing. Laughing with someone is very intimate. Such a gift.

Christina M said...

"A lovely congruence of ineffable knowing!"

Joan, agreed!

nightfly said...

Ebony - The most amazing sound I've ever heard in my life is my toddler son squealing and giggling when we play. And, as often happens in paradox, I can't think about it without tearing up a little at how blessed my wife and I are to have him.

I can imagine the joy of God is so much more than this, that I would come apart at the seams. Here we see through a glass, darkly, because we would be blinded and scalded by the direct sun.

Steve Finnell said...


What is the definition and the purpose of water baptism under the New Covenant?


Baptism as defined in the Scriptures.

Acts 8:36 And, as they went on their way they came to a certain water; and the eunuch said, Look, here is water; what is there to hinder me from being immersed? (Ref: The Better Version of The New Testament by Chester Estes)

The definition of baptism is to be immersed in water.

Acts 8:36 As they went along the road they came to some water;and the eunuch said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?" (Ref: NASB)

The definition of water baptism under the New Covenant is immersion in water.

Romans 6:4 We were, therefore, buried with him by immersion into that death; that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, thus we also should walk in newness of life. (Ref: TBVOTNT by Chester Estes)

In water baptism, believers in Christ are buried by immersion in water. This symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Romans 6:4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Ref: NASB)

To be buried through baptism makes it clear that water baptism is immersion. Men cannot be buried under a sprinkle or by having water poured over them.

Colossians 2:12 Having been buried with him by immersion, by which also you were raised up with him, through the belief of the strong working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Ref: TBVOTNT by Chester Estes)

Water baptism is a burial by immersion.

Colossians 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (Ref: NASB)

Baptism is a burial by immersion.


Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Let each one of you repent and be immersed, in the name of Jesus Christ, in order to the remission of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Ref: The Better Version Of The New Testament by Chester Estes)

One purpose of water baptism is in order to have sin forgiven.

Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Ref: NASB)

A reason to be baptized in water is so your sins may be forgiven.

Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as have been immersed into Christ, have put on Christ. (Ref: TBVOTNT by Chester Estes)

One purpose of water baptism is to put on Christ.

Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Ref: NASB)

A purpose for water baptism is so men can be clothed with Christ.

Mark 16:16 He who has believed, and has been immersed, will be saved..... (Ref: TBVOTNT by Chester Estes)

A purpose of water baptism is in order to be saved.

Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved.... (Ref: NASB)

One reason to be baptized in water is so that you may be saved from the punishment of your sins.


you are invited to follow my blog. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com