MY KOLKATA EDUGRAPH
ADVERTISEMENT
regular-article-logo Friday, 19 July 2024

Laugh, pray, love: Editorial on Pope Francis’s remark that God can be laughed at if the joke isn’t offensive

Head of Catholic church provided an unexpected image of god who would not mind being laughed at with the kind of humour that allows people to laugh and joke with those they are close to

The Editorial Board Published 22.06.24, 07:37 AM
Pope Francis

Pope Francis File Photo

Humour unites people because laughter is contagious. Pope Francis, known for his insistence on god’s mercy, showed also a deep understanding of the function of humour in society at a meeting attended by comedians from around the world. It was startling, however, to hear the pope say that it was alright to laugh at god as long as the joke did not hurt the feelings of believers or the poor. There was no blasphemy in that. What he did not say, pedantically, is that laughter has many sources, but he did define humour as the kindest form of it. He saw humour as a source of laughter that does not offend or put others down, that does not ridicule others’ flaws. God would smile if people could make others smile: this was what comedians could do with their power among gloomy news. They could lighten the load of miseries and spread peace.

The head of the Catholic church provided an unexpected image of god who would not mind being laughed at with the kind of humour that allows people to laugh and joke with those they are close to. This closeness is familiar among ancient religions, where the foibles of various gods and goddesses are often funny or exasperating, where goddesses are perfectly willing to enter a beauty contest before a young prince prone to losing his head, or where frank favouritism for specific heroes among rival deities may prolong human wars. It is as natural for a goddess to be jealous of a woman’s sewing skills as it is for another to lose her heart to a beautiful youth. The acrobatics of amorous gods in their pursuit of pretty women would form a saga. In some religions, humour and a familiarity almost domestic are more a part of worship and love than fear or a tragic sensibility. Even mythological or epic heroes are fallible in spite of all the admiration they evoke. Affection for an elephant-headed god with a paunch who, stories say, loves to eat, for example, does not take away from the devotion with which he is worshipped for success in any enterprise.

ADVERTISEMENT

It is this loving, humane worship that has suffered most in recent times. Humour has disappeared from cultural life with the victory of religion as repressive politics. The comfortable presence of kind deities who enjoy jokes about them and with them in the background of social existence even without ritualistic worship is fading away. Weapons are replacing the peaceful understanding of ancient stories, compassion and the free expression of feeling. In this larger context, Pope Francis’s allusion to gloom both in society and personal lives that humour could alleviate seems especially pertinent. Perhaps the pope’s interest in interreligious exchange lies at the basis of his awareness. Humour springs from an extreme sensitiveness to a sense of proportion. That is what cultures of fear and hatred try to destroy.

Follow us on:
ADVERTISEMENT