Much has been said about the value and relevance of humor and laughter. There is the long-running “Laughter is the Best Medicine” which has drawn a loyal following in The Readers’ Digest. There is its cinematic reinforcement courtesy of the irreverent medical practitioner Dr. Patch Adams immortalized by the late Robin Williams. Fairly recently, there is laughter yoga. Indeed, as the proverbial cliche goes, “Life as it is is already serious. Let’s not make it even more serious.”
But have you ever thought of humor as a signal of transcendence? More to the point, have you ever regarded humor as a sure sign of God’s presence?
In his book A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural, the sociologist Peter Berger reflects that, as a matter of fact, humor inevitably points to the indubitable presence of God in our lives. “By laughing at the imprisonment of the human spirit, humor implies that this imprisonment is not final but will be overcome, and by this implication provides yet another signal of transcendence – in this instance in the form of an intimation of redemption.” (p. 88) To laugh, therefore, is an act of defiance in the face of the limitations of what is before you. By laughing at something, the human spirit, in effect, transcends what is given. When you slip, for example, donned in your Sunday dress in a room full of people and you laugh about it, you get past the given. The same applies when you come across a store signage that looks exactly like the popular global coffee brand except that it is actually spelled Starbuco. It is precisely in this transcendence that humor suggests the strong possibility of the transcendent, God Himself. There has to be more to life than our reality. There has to be more to life than this life.
On the occasion of the first year anniversary of Notes from My Music Room, allow me to share with you 10 cases in point. Whenever I look back at these 10 random moments in my life, I can’t help thinking that God was smiling and laughing with me, with us.
It’s crunch time for my team as we’re pulling out all the stops to ramp up our recruitment campaign. The pressure is such that we have been targeting to pull in no less than 40 show-ups a week to hit our target officers onboarded monthly. In the course of interviewing our officer candidates, I came across one applicant with a very curious name:
“So you’re named Merry Jolly Joy (family name omitted for privacy),” I opened our exchange thus. “That’s a very interesting name,” I remarked. “So what’s your nickname?” “Happy po, Sir!” she replied matter of factly, obviously used to being asked the question. “Oo nga naman!”
My wife and I both filed our leaves to enroll 3 of our kids one weekday. Due to our responsibilities in the office, we still had to attend to text messages and emails that came our way during our leave despite the delegations we arranged earlier. As we made our way to our kids’ school, our boys excitedly asked their mom a number of stuff about their summer plans. My wife and I happily took turns taking their questions. At some point, though, my wife had to tune out to attend to a very urgent email from her boss. To which, our third child remarked, “Mama, aren’t you on leave today? Why are you working?” Our youngest offered, “Mama just wants to pretend that the car is her office.” We all laughed.
There was a point in the short history of this blog when I was in the thick of interviewing OPM artists. At that time, one of my son’s Class Parent Officers (CPO) appointed me as one of the 2 emcees for the class salu-salo. Since I underestimated the traffic, we arrived late. Worse, I had no idea what segment would be assigned to me so I approached the CPO who informed me that I will be taking on the OPM contest. They would play a song and I would facilitate the guessing of the song title. I then scanned their prepared playlist and smiled to myself. Most of the songs they listed were by OPM artists I was either interviewing or have interviewed. Some I was planning to interview. Among them were Ely Buendia of the Eheads, The Dawn, Noel Cabangon, Bamboo, Joey Albert, Rivermaya, etc. Alas, technical malfunction got in the way of playing the prepared tracks. To make the show go on, I ended up singing the OPM songs in their prepared playlist to the amusement of my wife and our fellow parents. Talk about putting my mouth where my blog was.
When our eldest daughter was around 4 years old, she took us to task for buying shiny, red apples. “Mama, I think you should not buy those fruits.” Piqued by the reason behind our daughter’s unsolicited advice, her mom asked: “Why not, anak? This is very good for the body.” Our daughter stated with conviction “Because we will die!”
One of my most promising direct reports was recently tapped to host a townhall on short notice. The townhall was for a sales channel that is characteristically high-end and it showed in their preferred medium which was English. Not one who would shy away from challenges, my direct report who is more comfortable in Tagalog and Taglish rose to the challenge even if he did not have enough time to prepare a well thought-out script. Wanting to kick start the townhall on a high note, he opened thus. “Good day, ladies and gentlemen. To start our townhall, let’s have a quick ROLE call of all attending branches!” Everybody rolled in laughter.
“Papa are you a mailman?” my third child once asked me while I was attending to my emails at home. “No, anak. I’m a trainer. Why do you say I’m a mailman?,” I asked. To which my son replied: “Because you always check your mail.” Good point right there, son!
When my eldest was 3-years old, she was accompanied by her mom to a public toilet of a reputable mall. Inside the comfort room, my daughter observed: “Mama, they have blue wiwi here?” My wife laughed and gently explained what a sanitizer does.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?,” we asked our second son one morning as part of a parenting tip we learned after attending a seminar. “I want to be a fixer!” he smartly answered. My wife and I exchanged looks of disappointment and then we chorused: “Huh? What do you mean?” He smiled and said: “Like when the chair is broken or when the lights won’t work, I want to be able to fix it,” he answered confidently.
One afternoon, we decided to visit a nearby park where quite a number of visitors were walking their dogs. After a brown dog passed us by, one of our children asked the question: “What do they call their dog, Mama?” Their mom tentatively said, “Puppy? Maybe, Brownie? I didn’t catch the name but maybe a name along that line.” My son was not convinced. Hence, his rejoinder: “It can’t be Mama.” “Why?” their mom asked. “Because we eat that!” my son countered. “You mean the dog? We don’t eat dogs!” their mom explained. “No, Mama, the brownies.”
After watching a well-made movie about superheroes at a nearby IMAX, my wife and I quizzed our kids with the question: “What original super hero character would you like to be?” Our third child raised his hand and proudly said, “I would like to be Boy-tiki (culled from butiki, the vernacular for the house lizard) – able to climb walls and stretch out my tongue so I don’t need to walk that far for my food.” “How about you?” we asked our youngest after recovering from laughter. He replied: “I want to be Boy Ipis – able to make criminals itch all over and run into the waiting arms of the police!” He he he!
In 1987 the Irish rock band U2 once again shot to the top of the charts with the gospel rock song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” – a composition that is almost Augustinian in terms of orientation. In the song, Bono details how he has gone to great lengths to look for God. Alas, the song ends even as his search continues to be in vain as he “still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.”
“I have climbed the highest mountains, I have run through the fields Only to be with you, only to be with you I have run, I have crawled I have scaled these city walls, these city walls Only to be with you. But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”
Perhaps it was because he was looking too far and wide. Had he looked nearer, he would have found what he was looking for in humor, in joy, in laughter. Emmanuel. God with us.