Monday, January 08, 2007

Laughing Pilgrims: Humor and the Spiritual Journey -- A Book Recommendation

“Walk cheerfully over the world answering that of God in everyone,” urged George Fox. We Friends are pretty good at the second part of that suggestion, but often could use some work on the first. Which is good reason to give thanks for Howard Macy’s new book. Laughing Pilgrims is a much needed reminder that, while the life of the spirit is often serious, it’s not something to be undertaken in grim earnestness. Macy, Professor of Religion and Biblical Studies at George Fox, has given us a book that is less a study of spirituality and humor than it is a “how-to” for holy humor.

In a book filled with humor (subtle and not so), Macy does present some wonderfully accessible analyses of the uses of humor in the Bible, a book we rarely think of as funny. These helpful examples remind us that the biblical stories are about, and meant for, people like us. “The Bible is often funny, just as we should expect it to be,” writes Macy, “if it truly reflects the full range of faith and life.” He goes on to point out the jokes, riddles, comic stories, satire, and word play.

The truly helpful parts of the book, though, are those that show us ways to walk cheerfully. He urges us to remember that our spiritual journeys have “to do with all of life, not just with consecrated chunks set of in a corner… if Brother Lawrence could experience God fully while peeling potatoes, perhaps we can learn to love God amid peals of laughter.” The book encourages readers to discover ourselves through laughter (the Klutz Factor chapter is especially delightful) and then provides instruction in “walking cheerfully day to day.” Macy is careful to offer up advice for making sure our holy humor is just that – and not harmful, hateful humor. He gives guidance for how to live in a spirit of fun and how to cultivate a joyful attitude in the midst of family, work, and our other personal experiences. The book concludes, not with a list a jokes or compendium of funny stories, but with questions and activities that can be used to help us walk cheerfully. All in all the book is geared toward learning to enjoy a “life of holy hilarity.”

Say, did you hear the one about the two Quakers who…

Laughing Pilgrims: Humor and the Spiritual Journey
Howard M. Macy
Paternoster, 2006, 133 pages, paperback, $14.99

1 comment:

Lovin' Life Liz said...

Can't wait to read this book, had just blogged about humor a few days ago!