Introduction to the Humor Issue
I guess my best efforts should be saved for Inspiration Letters. So I guess the bar for the humor issue is really quite high. I have to say something or do something that will be so funny that people will laugh themselves into conniptions.
But I don’t really feel like being funny right now. In fact, I’d rather talk about death.
I like that word.
It’s so final.
Like most English words, it’s not pronounced the way it’s spelled. By rights it should rhyme with “bequeath” but rather it rhymes with “Beth”.
Here’s a subtly funny but sublime poem the Master wrote about death:
DANCE AND DINE
When my weary night
Struggles into day,
God and I together dance
In the garden of Love-light.
When my fiery day
Slips into night,
Satan and the King of death
Together dine in the Kitchen of Surprise.
(From The Dance of Life, by Sri Chinmoy)
I guess the worst part of death for me is that I often get the urge to giggle at funerals. It’s an unpleasant quirk in my otherwise genial and cordial personality. And I don’t just mean the kind of giggle you can cup in your hands and pass off as a cough. I mean, the full-fledged kind of giggle, the laugh so hard you get stomach cramps kind of giggle.
I’m not proud of this. It’s a defect that’s caused me to be written out of wills. One that has cost me odd jobs. One that has lost me many pen pals. Really. I can’t tell you the number of correspondents who felt that the ideal meet-up situation after years of exchanging zany, stinging letters would be a family funeral. But it is awkward, you know, struggling to identify your pen pal (that you’ve never met before) in a packed funeral home while trying to suppress outrageous bursts of horse-laughter. I still go to my letter box every day, waiting, hoping, yearning for an envelope I know will never come.
Weddings are even worse. I’m not usually a narcoleptic. But as soon as I go to a wedding ceremony, within ten seconds I’m out like a light. It’s gotten to the point that I bring along a foam mattress and pillow to collapse onto at every wedding I attend. I mean, at my aunt’s third wedding, as soon as I got to my pew, I unrolled my futon and threw it down in the aisle. People shot me curious glances. “Just walk around me!” I screamed before falling senselessly prone. I woke up hours later in the dark parking lot. There was nary a cloud in the sky and I enjoyed watching an early morning meteor shower.
And sometimes, for no apparent reason, I just say the darndest things! I remember, when I was in Elementary school my fourth grade math teacher told us that she would give a used baseball card to whoever scored the highest on the pop quiz she had just announced.
“Big whoop!” I said, not knowing why.
She got furious! She went around the class and asked each child whether or not they wanted a baseball card. They all said yes, with earnest piety. I got to sit in the corner for the next week, which was good in a way, as she couldn’t teach Plato to reflect!
Bar and Bas Mitzvahs are fine. I think that’s because this might be my first Jewish incarnation. I haven’t had time to develop any curious habits. But hey, Daniel Defoe was forty-five before he found his schtick (writing novels). I’ve got time to find my groove, too.
Reminds me, one of my cousins recently brought home a new boyfriend to meet her parents. Her dad immediately asked him which synagogue he davened at. The kid said, “St. Johns”. “Oh,” replied the father, “Is that Reform?” Bad-a-boom!
Personality is simply the behavior which is expected of you. If you want to be funny, do and say things that run contrary to people’s perceptions of you as a droll, self-effacing 9-5 kind of guy or girl. To quote a great Master of the unexpected:
Every day my Lord Supreme
Out of His infinite Bounty
To say things and do things
(Sri Chinmoy, My Christmas-New Year-Vacation Aspiration-Prayers, part 6)
(I tried to find a classy You Tube video to close this essay, but failed. Too many cats learning how to roll dough.)