“For God was so disgusted with the world and you that he gave his one and only Son.”
“Blessed are the tithers for they shall be called the children of God.”
“You are the light of the world… well… in a sinful-filthy-scum kind of way.”
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…Yet another thing we can have gold or silver-plated.
For your morning…
If you’re active on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. you’ve probably seen a lot of “Pray for Boston”s and picture quotes of Fred Rogers in the last 24 hours. You may have also seen some attempts at making light of the situation…even telling jokes. While the only compassionate response seems to be an expression of condolence or solidarity, I saw this article about how humor may be the coping mechanism for many following a tragedy or disaster.
Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos worries that sick humour’s popularity is symptomatic of an unhealthy culture which has been desensitised to the suffering of others.
“One of the reasons we laugh at tragedy is that it makes the enormity of the issue easier to deal with,” she concedes.
Think of how when someone dies of lung cancer you might hear someone say, “If only s/he could have quit smoking,” or something like that. We say things like this to protect ourselves. (S/he smoked and died of lung cancer; I don’t smoke, so I won’t die of lung cancer).
[Sigmund Freud] argued that sick jokes were the mechanism by which the ego “insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world”.
His analysis is shared by Dr Oliver Double, an expert in comedy at the University of Kent who believes that tackling offensive subjects can be a very effective tool of satire as well as a form of therapy.
If this is true, than we may want to be careful in condemning our friends for telling a distasteful joke about a tragedy…maybe that’s an opening for a different conversation about how scary these things make the world seem. However, some jokes are worse than others—some are done in order to shock and probably serve to feed the teller’s ego and get attention.
Dr Oliver Double: “A comedian like Stewart Lee is fantastic because he takes on difficult subjects in a way that is very challenging but is also, ultimately, extremely principled,” Dr Double says.
“When you think about someone like Frankie Boyle or Jimmy Carr, the appeal is basically: ‘I’m going to say the worst thing I possibly can.’ I find that a bit tiresome, to be honest.”
And when it comes to subtlety and nuance, Dr Double notes, 140 characters makes life difficult.
When I saw the jokes, I was offended—maybe for the sake of solidarity with the victims or perhaps because I more readily acknowledge my fear…maybe another reason. Either way, a lot of other people were offended too (they commented as such).
I thought posting on this might get some people started in thinking about this issue of humor following tragedy. Hopefully this doesn’t result in angry posts condemning the joke tellers.
So what thoughts do you have about humor following tragedies such as the explosions in Boston?
Garrison Keillor on Episcopalians
We make fun of Episcopalians for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear of giving offense, their lack of speed and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and cheese. But nobody sings like them.
If you were to ask an audience in Des Moines, a relatively Episcopalianless place, to sing along on the chorus of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” they will look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their underwear. But if you do this among Episcopalians, they’d smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! ….And down the road!
Many Episcopalians are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony, a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person’s rib cage. It’s natural for Episcopalians to sing in harmony. We are too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison.
When you’re singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th
chords, all two hundred of you, it’s an emotionally fulfilling moment. By
our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other.
I do believe this, people: Episcopalians, who love to sing in four-part harmony are the sort of people you could call up when you’re in deep distress. If you are dying, they will comfort you. If you are lonely, they’ll talk to you. And if you are hungry, they’ll give you tuna salad!
Episcopalians believe in prayer, but would practically die if asked to pray out loud. Episcopalians like to sing, except when confronted with a new hymn or a hymn with more than four stanzas.
Episcopalians believe their Rectors will visit them in the hospital, even if they don’t notify them that they are there. Episcopalians usually follow the official liturgy and will feel it is their way of suffering for their sins.
Episcopalians believe in miracles and even expect miracles, especially during their stewardship visitation programs or when passing the plate.
Episcopalians feel that applauding for their children’s choirs will not make the kids too proud and conceited.
Episcopalians think that the Bible forbids them from crossing the aisle while passing the peace.
Episcopalians drink coffee as if it were the Third Sacrament.
Episcopalians feel guilty for not staying to clean up after their own wedding reception in the Fellowship Hall.
Episcopalians are willing to pay up to one dollar for a meal at church.
Episcopalians still serve Jell-O in the proper liturgical color of the season and Episcopalians believe that it is OK to poke fun at themselves and never take themselves too seriously.
And finally, you know you are a Episcopalian when:
- It’s 100 degrees, with 90% humidity, and you still have coffee after the
- You hear something really funny during the sermon and smile as loudly as you can.
- Donuts are a line item in the church budget, just like coffee.
- When you watch a Star Wars movie and they say, “May the Force be with you,” and you respond, “and also with you.”
- And lastly, it takes ten minutes to say good-bye…
Garrison Keillor attends St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.
This essay courtesy of William Ogburn.
A great episode of Parks and Recreation.