Father Kinsella talks today on a certain “lightheartedness” that allows one to see the humor in situations…a very good quality to have. Serious-mindedness is necessary but it is tempered with this “sense of humor”.
The Wife Desired by Fr. Leo Kinsella, 1950’s
A person may have a sense of humor without being a professional humorist or comedienne. Relatively few are gifted to travel in this rarefied air. It is more difficult to write humor than scientific treatises. One obvious proof of this is that there are libraries full of scientific books while works of humor are few.
One person is able to appreciate or even be enthralled by a sunset.
Another is able to put the sunset down on canvas and thus convey it to others. One can love music. Another can create it. The second person is an artist.
It takes special talents, the right environment, and application to bring about an artist. Comparatively speaking, real artists are rare. Although we could use more of them, yet life would become unbearable if all people became artists. God keeps a balance in nature. All birds cannot be singing canaries, and we are happy for it.
Not many wives can be humorists or comediennes. Again, for this we can be grateful. But wives can have a sense of humor. They can have the fine perception of seeing things in their true perspective.
A sense of humor is the faculty of being able to see through things, to see the real worth of things. It could be called a sense of equilibrium. Not being lopsided herself the woman with a sense of humor can detect the lopsided. Because her vision is in focus, she can see and enjoy the incongruous.
A flower or a sunset is a reflection of a spark, so to speak, of God. But these beautiful things are not a part of God: so, a sense of humor keeps even the artist from going daffy over flowers and sunsets and becoming a Pantheist. The wife may feel strongly about flowers and sunsets, but she doesn’t lose her sense of balance and become too serious about them.
The most serious thing in life is sin. Food, drink, and gold are just materials to keep us alive, means whereby we work out our eternal destiny. They exist for us. When we begin to exist for them and become gluttons and misers, we sin. We lose our sense of humor.
Our ability to see through things, our sense of humor, prevents us from getting too serious over gold, roast beef, and martinis.
A sense of humor might be likened to a sort of casual sense of balance. It is mental relaxation. The bane of all athletes is to “tighten up,” to get too serious over hitting home runs, high diving, and so forth. As soon as a golfer or bowler “tightens up,” she is off her best form.
A person without a sense of humor has a sort of mental “charlie-horse.” She “tightens up” mentally to the extent that her brain becomes sort of lame, unable to see things in their proper perspective.
Many years ago an effort was made to involve me as referee in a sort of neighborhood civil war. Little junior, let us call him Willie Baxter, was three years old and full of lemonade one day. He wandered two doors down the street under the window of an aged spinster.
With a reputation of being a neighborhood crab she lived alone on the second floor of her two-flat building. She had had her eye on Willie before he began to poach on her property. As he began to pick flowers under her window, she was all ready for this affront with a pail of water. Willie was not too sure what happened, but his instincts told him that it was time to high tail it for home.
Before he could reach home base, the defender of public morals and private property had Willie’s mother on the telephone blessing her out. Willie arrived looking as if he had just swum the Channel.
His appearance spurred mother on to a more direct contact with the assailant of her child. She ended up a few safe yards from the spot of Willie’s dastardly act and entered a screaming contest with the old lady.
By this time the old retired fireman on the first floor came to life from a nap. Thinking that the building surely was on fire, he rushed out the side door with a pail of water. Misinterpreting the designs of the erstwhile firefighter, the young mother beat a hasty retreat to her home.She felt that at least one of the Baxters should keep her powder dry.
In the meantime Willie had pretty much become used to his soggy breeches and was having another glass of lemonade. Mother could carry on and finish the feud. Willie felt that he had done his bit in starting it.
Willie’s mother lacked a sense of humor or at least lost it momentarily. Instead of sitting down and having a good laugh over the lesson, which her little Willie had learned the easy way, she lost her sense of perspective and ruined her disposition for the rest of the day. Unwittingly, of course, she provided high comedy for the neighbors. The world is full of unremunerated comediennes.
Willie’s mother went so far as to attempt to enlist her husband’s support in feuding with the old lady. I am afraid that she even tried to nag him into “putting in his two cents.” He, however, seemed to know that the poor old lady was a character and that little Willie received no mortal hurt. In fact, I would not be surprised if he did not have to force back a few chuckles over the episode in the bringing up of Willie.
Anyone can understand that her mother’s instincts might carry her away at first. A sense of humor would bring back balance as the hours passed. She would begin to see the humorous side of the episode and bear no resentment against the spinster. She would have been spared the nuisance of contending for hours and days with revengeful thoughts.
If people are fortunate to be able to recover their mental equilibrium through a sense of humor, twice blessed are those who can see the humor of situations as they are developing. These wonderful people are a joy to themselves as well as to all who are privileged to know them. A young woman who possesses this crown of spiritual growth is a pearl of great price.
If it is dangerous to get too serious over roast beef or gold or martinis, it is fatal to get too serious over oneself. The devil certainly lacked a sense of humor when he vaunted himself in the face of God. He took himself just a little bit too seriously and laughter went out of his life forever. The light bearer before the God of life became the demon of the shadows of death.
Life is not a stage for buffoons. It is deadly serious. We walk a tight rope between heaven and hell. Of ourselves we can never make it. As long as we keep our faces turned up to God and our hands in His, we shall not lose our nerve and fall. Only those fall who think themselves to stand by their own merits.
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