The tenth degree of humility, which we re-read in today’s section of the Rule of St Benedict, RB 7.59, always seems to cause trouble. Why should we not laugh? Is Benedict really such a sourpuss? The answer, of course, is to be found in an understanding of sixth-century culture. The laughter we are being warned against is the laughter of scorn and derision, the empty cackling of the fool, not the joyful and life-enhancing laughter of those who see the funny side of life.
Before we pass on to something of more consequence, perhaps we should pause for a moment and consider our own conduct. How often do we end up using laughter as a way of dismissing others, substituting ridicule for respect? A gentle tease can easily get out of hand; a snappy retort in social media can do more harm than we realise. No one is suggesting that we should forego spontaneity, but we may need to do a ‘rain check’ every now and then. Cheerfulness and good humour are true blessings. Let’s make the most of them and not hurt others with our insistence on being funny at their expense.
I’m very grateful to be back at the monastery after my latest hospital stay. Thank you for your prayers. The ‘new normal’ is evolving.