When we acquired Dr. Bolis Celebrated Magazine earlier this month, I was quite pleased, but a commentator’s question stuck with me. He said: “You know, it is amusing, but does it really contribute to a magazine whose ‘purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society’?”
My answer: Yes.
The very fact that Dr. Boli is amusing is indeed a contribution to the advancement of our purpose. Fr. James Schall’s thoughts in a recent article may shed some light:
Aristotle noticed that man is the being who laughs, animal risibile . He is likewise the being who is by nature a political animal. These two latter designations have a direct relation to mans rational faculty . . . . Things are only amusing, however, if one can see relationships, incongruities, unexpected disproportions, and ironies.
Laughter is a sign of reason, indeed of elevated reason. It is witness to our ability to see relationships, to see what belongs together and what does not. Wit is a sign of high intelligence. Wit is in fact so powerful that Aristotle, in the Fourth Book of The Ethics, devoted a special discussion to its proper use. He saw its rule to be a moral virtue.
Humor, thus is an essential part of “a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society,” or perhaps better stated, a fruit of a properly religiously-formed philosophy. It is indeed the religiously-formed worldview, the belief that there is redemption for suffering , that opens one up to a true and free humor. Schall says: “That humor and wit are essential to our loves goes without saying. Laughter is an intimation of the joy in which we are created, a sign of the abundance of delight in the origin of our being.”
As Pope Benedict XVI says, speaking on Christian laughter, “We climb up the mountain of time, bearing with us the instruments of our own death. At first the goal is far distant. We do not think of it; the present is enough: the morning on the mountain, the song of the birds, the sun’s brightness. We feel we do not need to know about our destination, since the way itself is enough. But the longer it grows, the more unavoidable the question becomes: Where is it going? What does it all mean? . . . the fear rises within us that perhaps the whole of life is only a variation of death; that we have been deceived and that life is actually not a gift but an imposition. Then the strange reply, God will provide, sounds more like an excuse than an explanation. Where this view predominates, where talk of God is no longer believable, humor dies. In such a case man has nothing to laugh about anymore; all that is left is cruel sarcasm or that rage against God and the world with which we are all acquainted. But the person who has seen the LambChrist on the Crossknows that God has provided . . . Because we see the Lamb, we can laugh and give thanks . . . ”