The things that become habitual in our daily lives grow devoid of thought or reflection. Yet, every once in awhile something encased in habit will jump out at us giving us pause. How often we mindlessly mimic the lector’s psalm responses between readings at Mass! But recently one caught and grabbed me: “God fills us with laughter and music.”From somewhere in our culture comes a certain uneasiness in associating You with laughter and music; and when I reflect on it, I’m not sure why. Maybe this psalm response is meant to remind us that they both come from God and are good.
When we speak about the blessings of God in our lives we generally refer to our family, friends, health, successes and other more evident ways in which You touch us. But there is a seeming lack of gratitude for fun, surprise, pleasure, laughter, and music which are each a valid part of our lives here just as are family, friends, health, etc. Each is a gift of special grace from You. The fact that there are varying degrees of each of these present or absent in the lives of different individuals should make those favored with such gifts even more grateful and reflective.
I have written to You before about my firm convictions concerning the spiritual qualities of music. The fact that the medium of melody and harmony can touch our heartstrings in profound and wordless ways is a gift meant to be considered and enjoyed.
In religious art it strikes me as a near travesty that there is a most negligible consideration of the gifts of laughter in the paintings and sculptures of You and the saints. Isn’t it odd that in the taking of a photograph of someone we love we admonish them to “smile,” but we would think it odd if all the paintings and statues in church were smiling back at us! I have a print of a drawing by Kozak called “Laughing Jesus” which I like to look at because laughing is such a joyful human emotion, and to consider You laughing makes me smile and bonds my humanity with Yours.
The psalm response referred to above probably came from David. It makes sense, knowing that he was a musician, that he would wish to show his appreciation for the gift of music; and, though we have no record of it, I think we can assume that he appreciated a good laugh too. Constant seriousness masks our vulnerability. Laughing involves a risk – like so many other things in the spiritual life.