I hope you’ve had a great week, and have some fun things planned for the weekend. Since I do not watch a single show, I am usually pretty removed from celebrity gossip. But this week I somehow just kept bumping into news from Hollywood with names I actually know. Some of it was kind of disturbing, some of it funny, and some heartbreaking. In the wake of Norm MacDonald’s death, I saw numerous recommendations for his book, Based on a True Story. I can barely resist anything described as it is — both hilarious and profound. I downloaded the audiobook last night. I was a little afraid to listen to it in bed, because nothing leads you more decidedly in the opposite direction from imminent slumber as a hearty laugh. But I didn’t laugh. I listened and then I slept.
I didn’t get very far, but the beginning is a lot more profound than amusing. This doesn’t necessarily surprise me. Funny people are observant. Observant people aren’t always the most joyful. After all, if you really stop to examine the world around you, you are going to find lots of disappointing, discouraging and painful realities. Yet people who stay on the surface are never really funny. There’s a tension in it.
MacDonald admits he’s misquoting Mark Twain to say, “It turns out the rumor of my death is only slightly exaggerated.” It’s a great line, because it illustrates the tension which is often an integral part of humor. In a sense, the rumor of anyone’s death is only slightly exaggerated. It’s sobering, but I hope it makes you want to live whatever is left to the fullest — loving, forgiving, cherishing, and laughing. Our absurd world acts like there is only one way to die, but even if Covid-19 was never a thing, you’d still be one day closer to death today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.
It’s a further tragedy that we have so many humorless and shallow would-be influencers. The finger-pointing, uptight schoolmarm has become a caricature, but has also proliferated. These grating voices, which don’t even bother to ask even the most obvious questions, are ubiquitous. Carl Jung said, “Thinking is difficult, therefore let the herd pronounce judgment.” Does that not describe our culture? But I am trying to resolve to pray for these people. I would be just as joyless as they are if I let bitterness take hold in my heart, so I pray that they would have wisdom about their own self-righteous, pharisaical religiosity, and that their utter lack of charm would become apparent when they look in the mirror. I pray that God would give them some big laugh to melt their cold, hard hearts. Most of all I pray that they’d meet Jesus, and that Jesus would set them free.
How different would the world be if we took Jesus at His Word: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b)
Perhaps Norm MacDonald himself understood this in part when he said: “At times, the joy that life attacks me with is unbearable and leads to gasping hysterical laughter. I find myself completely out of control and wonder how could life surprise me again and again and again, so completely. How could a man be a cynic? It is a sin.”
I hope you have a gasping, hysterical laugh this weekend that leads you to the same wonder. I hope you live your life and live it to the full.