About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."


No laughing matter!

Here is a joke from a long ago:
    A man was reported to have said in a pub: “Milos is an incompetent imbecile!” At the police station he attempted to defend himself: “No, comrade officer, I did not mean our respected party chairman, but some other Milos!”
“Just don’t try this on me! Did you say ‘incompetent imbecile’? You certainly meant our party leader!”
(Miloš Jakeš was the last totalitarian Communist Party Leader in my homeland and known for dull mind and strange guffs.)
    I know that this joke has been around for quite a while and was told about a number of different politicians and with slightly different insinuations, but it so nicely captures the reality of totalitarian regimes.
    I grew up under the totalitarian regime of Eastern Block Communism. Humor, satire, jokes, parody, irreverence... these were our best tools to preserve sanity under the absurd and often brutal ideological regime. And the regime perceived even the smallest jokes as acts of ideological sabotage and suppressed them accordingly, that meant with violence. People literally went to prisons for sharing jokes. My aunt’s academic and professional life was seriously jeopardized because of an alleged college prank with political overtones.
    Humor is an important, vital tool of a healthy personal and societal life. I know that there are irreverent, offensive, off-color and utterly distasteful jokes. Yet, if there are any institutions, realities or persons who are a priori off the limits for humor or jokes, I insist, it is an indication of a major problem. And this applies also to the realm of religion. Humor, satire, jokes and general irreverence are vital tools of a healthy faith.
    A religion which takes itself too seriously so that it cannot stand humor has a serious problem. The Bible itself is full of puns, jokes and satire! If anything becomes beyond criticism or satire than we know we are dealing with an arrogant idolatry! I find the maxim of Gideon’s father Joash very appealing. It would go something like this: If this or that deity was so grievously offended and hurt (by irreverent acts), let that deity punish the perpetrator, not the deity’s followers! And you can indeed find this radical principle in the Bible (Judges 6:31).
    In year 1511 Erasmus of Rotterdam published his satirical essay The Praise of Folly. This preeminent scholar of renaissance humanism adopted for himself the well-defined role of court jester to poke fun at superstitious, dim-witted medieval Christianity. Erasmus in the form of personified Folly took the pulpit and made a hilarious and simultaneously serious presentation. Here is just a short paragraph of Folly’s peroration:
    And I was recently present myself (as I often am - {mind you Folly is speaking O.S.}) at a theological debate where someone asked what authority there was in Scriptures for ordering heretics to be burned instead of refuted in argument. A grim old man, whose self-importance made it clear he was a theologian, answered in some irritation that the apostle Paul had laid down this rule saying “A man who is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject [devita]”,and he went on thundering out this quotation again and again while most of those present wondered what had happened to him. At last he explained that the heretic was to be removed from life [de vita]. Some laughed, though there were plenty of others who found this explanation worthy of a true theologian. When several still expressed some objections, he declared with irrefutable authority: “Pay attention. It is written that thou shalt not let the evildoer live. Every heretic is an evildoer, therefore, etc.” The entire audience marveled at the man’s reasoning power ...
    Actually, it is not funny that it remains funny even five hundred years later. I certainly met such “theologians” who were using similar syllogistic arguments. Some aggressors still use religion to justify their blood-thirst, and our politicians, not that long ago, referred to evildoers with similar grizzly intentions, don't you remember GWB? You see, humour is serious stuff and no laughing matter! ;-)

Why have I appeared today in this unaccustomed garb? Well, you shall hear the reason if you have no objection to lending me your ears - no, not the ones you use for preachers of sermons, but the ears you usually prick up for mountebanks, clowns, and fools, the sort of ears that once upon a time our friend Midas listened with to Pan.

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