[Finished Reading] Between Heaven and Mirth
Just finished reading Between Heaven and Mirth:Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life by Fr. James Martin S.J. I bought this book after seeing an interview of the author in The Colbert Report.
This book shows a very interesting perspective on religion and faith. It aims to put back the lost ideas of Humor and joy in religious life. It lists out reasons for why Joy, Humor, and Laughter are not just acceptable but a necessity for a good spiritual life. He argues that if Jesus, the God-Man, is fully human, then he should have a fully developed sense of humor. He even goes on to say that denying this could indirectly mean heresy.
“Look at God looking at you…. And smiling.” – Anthony de Mello S.J.,
I personally think that the author’s interpretation of the Magnificat was too liberal, apart from that everything else in the book was just wonderful. The author gives a small introduction about the Jesuit Way, which was really an eyeopener for me.
A couple of years back, on a rainy evening, I had an experience (or an encounter, if I may say so) with God thru imaginative prayer. But I thought that was my over imaginative mind and not a divine experience. Since then I was afraid to pray in that way. But the thought of that experience stayed in my heart all along. I always wanted to experience it one more time. But I was afraid that I might offend God. I was afraid that I might become delusional. But this book has cleared my doubt. If God wants to have a personal relationship with me, then imaginative prayer is the way to go. It is the only way I can stay sane in this mad world. I have also decided to dig deeper into Ignatian Spirituality. (I hope St. Ignatius of Loyola is declared a Doctor of the Church soon)
Here is an excerpt from the book for your reading pleasure:
Another reason we may have historically downplayed holy humor is that we may wish the saints, consciously or unconsciously, to be other than ourselves. It is tempting for us to distance the saints and the spiritual masters of any tradition from our own lives, because this, in a sense, lets us off the hook. It’s easier that way. If we imagine them as essentially different from us, then their lives make little claim on our own. Labeling the saints as “other” – imagining them as always being gifted with fruitful prayer, never having any doubts about God’s existence, or, in this case, always remaining deadly serious–means that their lives remain largely irrelevant to our own. Their examples of charity and service cease to be relevant to us, and therefore we can look at them as nothing more than spiritual oddities. In a way, it’s a dehumanization of the saints. – (Pg.74)
Overall this is a wonderful book. A must read for those who are interested in religion and those who take themselves and their religious life too-seriously.
And as a final thought, here is a cool video which shows joy, humor, and laughter in an unexpected religious setting…
(Video via Facebook by Sister Colleen Clair, FMA)