Monday, June 08, 2009

Rule of St Benedict Reading for June 8, 2009

February 7, June 8, October 8
Chapter 7: On Humility
The tenth degree of humility
is that he be not ready and quick to laugh,
for it is written,
"The fool lifts up his voice in laughter" (Eccles. 21:23).

Some thoughts

Kardong's translation reads: The 10th step of humility is not being quick to laugh at the slightest provocation, for it is written; The fool raises his voice in laughter.

Hmmm... I love to laugh, don't you? Especially that laughter that wells up from deep joy and delight. I am pretty convinced that when God created the Earth that He did so with joy and laughter. What else explains the giraffe? Or the cormorant, a bird that dives into water for a living to get fish yet has no oil in its wings which means it will sink unless it sits on a piling or something with it's wings spread out bent at a 90 degree angle as if it had elbows to dry them. And from what I've read by Benedictine monks, there is no shortage of joy in the monastery.

So what is Benedict saying here? The key is in the Latin word risus which is translated as "to laugh." It is a word used to differentiate the ribald, that ridicule which some think so funny from good humor. Benedict never denies his monks good humor. But laughter at the expense of another, that is what he is talking about.

Laughter at the expense of another can take many forms, can they not? There was an American comedian, Alan King, who made a living with mother-in-law jokes, always to the detriment of that woman. Many would be comedians garner a lot of laughter in response to their use of truly filthy language. There are many jokes about sex which seem to me to be a form of exploitation. And then of course there are those ethnic slurs disguised as comedy. Oh, I could go on.

But the point is this, I think. Risus doesn't arise from love, quite the opposite. Risus does not have its roots in treating all people as if they were Christ.



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