" 'Teacher, 21 which commandment in the law is the greatest?' He said to him, 22 'You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: 23 You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 24 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.""So, why all the rules? In my opinion, it's that "sparks" thing in Job 5:7. Where you've got human beings, you've got trouble. I've discussed that before. (November 28, 2010, for one) So, why all the rules? I think it helps us to have the implications of those two simple commandments spelled out for us.
Like whether or not humor and suffering belong together.
Then there's Matthew 7:3 and Acts 9:11. Those verses have, I'm confident, deep spiritual significance. They also, I strongly suspect, had a funny angle that's still there for folks who are willing to admit my Lord's humanity. That's almost another topic.
I do not think that God gave humanity a sense of humor - and now intends to punish us severely for having a sense of humor. That just doesn't make sense. Not to me, anyway.
Still, I'm just "some guy with a blog," with no more teaching authority than any other Catholic layman. I'll get back to the Church, humor, and how we use it, later in this post. (And Now, for Something Completely Different: Catholics and Humor)
Even so, I've thought of some rather funny quips I could make about the March 11, 2011, earthquake near Japan, and it's aftermath. Even on reflection, I still think some of them are funny.
But you will most likely never see them.
That's because, like I said, I don't think that thousands - maybe tens of thousands - of people dying is particularly funny.
What am I, crazy?
Actually, yes: and that is another topic.
- "ADHD, an Apostolic Exhortation, Another Document, and V8"
(November 11, 2010)
Decades back, I read about some GIs who were recovering from serious injuries in some hospital. One of them, who was missing a leg, was getting some sort of hydrotherapy. He twisted around, waved his stump out of the water, and yelled "SHARK!"
Am I shocked and horrified at that callous display of indifference to suffering?
Hardly. I'd worry a little about a young man in that position who didn't make a few wisecracks now and again.
Somebody at a coffee shop, making a wisecrack about a paraplegic GI? That, I might think was callous, depending on the context.
Is this the sort of "hypocrisy" that those Christians, and/or those Catholics are supposed to be just simply full of? I don't think so. But then, I wouldn't: since I'm a practicing Catholic. And in some circles 'everybody knows' what those people are like. And that's yet another topic.
Or maybe not so much.
That's why I'm not shocked and horrified at the story about recovering GIs. That "SHARKS!" gag seemed, in context, to be a pretty good way of dealing with a stressful situation. Better, I think, than moping around and sobbing "don't pity me!" And that's drifting into yet again another topic.
Does that mean that, if I was visiting someone who'd lost a limb, I'd offer some witticism like "are you hopping mad?" Not likely: not unless I knew the person very, very well - and knew with no reasonable doubt that the wisecrack might be helpful.
That's because, in my opinion, just as humor can help a person cope with stress: it can hurt, emotionally.
That's not entirely consistent with the sort of 'stiff upper lip' attitude I learned from America's older British-based culture - or my mother's Norwegian heritage. Both of which I value, by the way: to an extent.
Although I think it's imprudent at best to let emotions rule a person's life: I think it's also imprudent to pretend that emotions don't exist, or that they don't matter. More to the point, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has a few words to say on that subject. (Catechism, 1762-1770, summarized in 1771-1775, for starters) I've discussed emotions before, fairly often. You could check out emotions in this blog's Label Cloud.
How much of that is involved in situations where someone is mocked, and then criticized for not 'having a sense of humor,' I don't know. And that, again, is getting off-topic.
"Gov. Haley Barbour's press secretary, Dan Turner, resigns after making Japan earthquake joke"First of all, as I've said before, this isn't a "political" blog. I don't claim that one party is always right, and that everybody who doesn't agree is a doo-doo-head.
NYDailyNews.com (March 15, 2011)
"The press secretary to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour resigned Monday night after it was revealed that he sent a series of insensitive emails, including one that joked about earthquake victims in Japan.
" 'Gov. Haley Barbour has accepted Dan Turner's resignation as Press Secretary,' a statement posted on the GOP presidential hopeful's website read, adding that former deputy press secretary Laura Hipp would replace him.
"Turner sent an email Friday to fellow staffers and supporters that contained a roundup of news stories and historical notes, Politico reported.
" 'Otis Redding posthumously received a gold record for his single, (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay. (Not a big hit in Japan right now.),' Turner wrote...."
Do I think Turner was right in resigning? Yes. The joke was mildly funny: and in abysmally poor taste. Sharing it - in an email of all things - was, for someone in his position, a monumentally stupid thing to do. Back in 1945, maybe not so much. I'll get back to that train of thought.
"50 Cent admits he's 'ignorant' after joking about Japan tsunami"Unless things have changed a very great deal in the last few decades, anything I say about 50 Cent will be wrong, so I pass.
NME (March 15, 2011)
"...Referring to the tsunami, he wrote: 'Wave will hit 8am them crazy white boys going to try to go surfing.'
"Though some of his followers actually reacted positively to his comments, the rapper did acknowledge that some people may have found his tweets offensive. After news agencies began to circulate his comments he wrote: 'Some of my tweets are ignorant. I do it for shock value. Hate it or love it. I'm cool either way.'...
"Comedian Gilbert Gottfried fired as voice of Aflac duck"Aflac plans to find a new voice for the Duck, by the way.
CNN (March 15, 2011)
"The Aflac duck lost its voice Monday after the insurance giant fired the comedian behind the commercial quack for tweeting jokes about the earthquake and tsunami that has devastated Japan....
"...The tweets include this, posted at 12:33 p.m. Saturday:
" 'Japan called me. They said "maybe those jokes are a hit in the U.S., but over here, they're all sinking." '
"Another tweet, posted at 11:06 a.m. the same day, said:
" 'I was talking to my Japanese real estate agent. I said "is there a school in this area." She said "not now, but just wait." '
"[Aflac senior vice president and chief marketing officer Michael] Zuna said, 'Aflac Japan -- and, by extension, Japan itself -- is part of the Aflac family, and there is no place for anything but compassion and concern during these difficult times.' He added that the company was giving the International Red Cross 100 million yen (U.S. $1.2 million) to aid in disaster relief...."
Do I think Aflac was right to fire him? Maybe. It was their decision to make, anyway: and the odds are that his jokes haven't improved Aflac's business in Japan. Maybe not here in America, either.
Am I shocked and horrified at the Mr. Gottfried's jokes? No. I think that Tweeting them wasn't the smartest thing an American actor has ever done. I also think that it was very far from the daftest stunt pulled by a Hollywood personality. Very, very far: that's a colorful lot.
As it is, having lived through two eras when terribly thin-skinned folks could shred reputations: I think it's better to dig up what these 'offensive' statements actually were. That "thin-skinned" phrase, by the way, means "quick to take offense." (Princeton's WordNet) I don't think it's "racist," but I've run into folks who do. Moving on.
Like I said, I've lived through two hypersensitive (in my opinion) eras: the trailing edge of McCarthyism and the Bible-thumper's America; and political correctness. For what it's worth, I don't think the Hollywood blacklists were a good idea, and that crazy "tolerance" a few decades later wasn't an improvement. On the 'up' side, I see that Ben Vereen got his career back. (New York Magazine - Feb 2, 1981)
Given the sort of distortions that can happen when folks read an adjective, and fill in imaginary 'facts:' I think that repeating what individuals actually wrote or said is a good idea.
There's the sort of 'hate the Japs' stuff that America was flushing out of its system in my youth.
I think American culture still hasn't quite gotten used to the idea that folks whose ancestry isn't mostly from northwestern Europe, and who don't live in the United States aren't 'foreigners' - in the xenophobic 'Frank Burns' sense of the word.
These days, I'm not quite as concerned about the now-marginalized (in my opinion) right-wing nut cases. It's the folks who hate for more 'relevant' reasons:
After "Fu*k Japan," Gottfried's "is there a school in this area" joke is rather tame.
"On the other hand, closing a considered statement with 'fu*k Japan' is over the top for me. I recognize that Japanese culture, government, and business are not perfect: but whose is? And I remember the sort of racist propaganda that was still drifting around in the decade or two after WWII. 'Disgusting' is about the nicest term I can think of to describe that sort of attitude...."
(April 14, 2010)
"...There is nothing so hopeful as laughter. Every person has a sense of humor, and tapping into that can build a connection faster than anything else. Suffering people are tender all over, and humor is risky, but worth the risk. Occasionally my jokes have been poorly received, but each time I just asked forgiveness and permission for a fresh start...."Two things to take home from that, I think, are:
(Light-heartedness / Humor, "Hope for the Journey: Meaningful Support for the Terminally Ill," USCCB)
- "Every person has a sense of humor"
- "Humor is risky"
- "But worth the risk"
"...St. Philip devised mortifications without end for attacking pride in souls of promise who could bear his heavy-handed humor. ... An especially pious young man asked permission to wear a hair shirt and Philip granted his request with this stipulation: he wear it on the outside. He was known around Rome as 'Berto of the hair-shirt.'..."A hair shirt - on the outside?! The idea of that exquisitely-uncomfortable undergarment was to provide someone with a 'thorn in the flesh' that folks wouldn't notice.
("St. Philip's Suggestions for Idleness and Learning Patience," CatholicCulture.org)
My guess is that St. Philip Neri discerned that the young man was just simply aching to be holier-than-thou, and provided him with a penance that would really put a hole in his pride. (There's "pride," and then there's "pride:" (January 30, 2011, November 7, 2010 - and, more to the point, Catechism of the Catholic Church, , 17842094, 2540, 2728)
"...A constant source of suffering for Mother Genoveva was her involvement in external activity and the new foundations. She desired to return to her characteristic interior solitude and remain alone with the Lord, but she accepted her calling as God's will and did not let her physical or interior suffering stop her.Looks to me like humor is okay - at least sometimes.
"She would say: 'Even if I must suffer greatly, thanks be to God's mercy, I will not lack courage'.
"She was known for her kindness and openness to all, and for her good sense of humour - she would even joke about her physical ailments.
"In 1953, the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Holy Angels received Pontifical approval. Mother Genoveva died on 5 January 1956. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 29 January 1995."
("Genoveva Torres Morales (1870-1956), Vatican.va)
"...An extraordinary example of this truth is given to us by Pope John Paul II: in this too he is a great witness to men and women in our time. The Pope lives his old age with the greatest naturalism. Far from concealing it (who has not seen him joke with his walking stick?), he places it before everyone's eyes. With extreme simplicity, he says of himself: 'I'm an elderly priest'...."That's not quite the same as the "SHARK!" gag - but again, being Catholic obviously doesn't mean being humorless.
("The Dignity of Older People and their Mission in the Church and in the World ," Pontifical Council for the Laity, Vatican.va)
Then there's what Cappie Pondexter and the Governor of Tokyo said: and that is definitely another topic.
- "Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011: People Finder"
(March 14, 2011)
- "That's Funny: You Don't Look Catholic"
(December 17, 2010)
- "Hating People? Not an Option"
(December 9, 2010)
- "Data Dump: Major Earthquakes During the Last Week"
(October 3, 2009)
- "Organ Transplants, a Boy's Life, and Japanese Laws and Customs: This Catholic's View"
(June 14, 2009)
- "America, Racism, and What Didn't Happen at Virginia Tech"
Another War-on-Terror Blog (January 22, 2009)
- Carol Costello CNN
- "Ishihara apologizes over 'divine punishment' remark"
Kyodo News (March 15, 2011)
- "Gov. Haley Barbour's press secretary, Dan Turner, resigns after making Japan earthquake joke"
NYDailyNews.com (March 15, 2011)
- "Comedian Gilbert Gottfried fired as voice of Aflac duck"
CNN (March 15, 2011)
- "Pondexter sorry for Japan tweet"
SI.com (March 14, 2011)
- "Hope for the Journey: Meaningful Support for the Terminally Ill"
Kathy Kalina, RN, CRNH, Pro-Life Activities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (2001)
- "St. Philip's Suggestions for Idleness and Learning Patience,"
Mary Reed Newland, "The Saints and Our Children," (1958), via CatholicCulture.org
- "Genoveva Torres Morales (1870-1956), Vatican.va
- "The Dignity of Older People and their Mission in the Church and in the World "
Pontifical Council for the Laity, Vatican.va (October 1, 1998)
- "Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011: Posts"
Apathetic Lemming of the North