Remember our meditations on the spiritual fool Ken Feit who reminded us we can and should make fun of most things in life? 

Samantha Bee debunks the
unscalable border wall.

Well, humor is one more proof that we are all artists and it has a role to play in the Via Creativa and Via Transformativa.  To make humor and to respond to it—i.e. to have a sense of humor—is proof of the creativity in us all yearning to be liberated.  Never trust a prophet who lacks a sense of humor—such people are zealots, not prophets.  A zealot is a false prophet and there are plenty of them running around.

In the Bible Jonah is a prophet who shared a sense of humor. But he is not alone and we don’t have to go back 3500 years to learn that prophets use humor all the time.  And comedians are very often prophets for they wake us up in the most vulnerable way possible: By making us laugh.

Ernest C. Ward as the Fool in King Lear (1916): the only character allowed to criticize the king. The role of the jester in court, telling truth through humor and satire, is rooted in medieval times. Wikimedia Commons

Satire is an important contribution to political discourse and it unmasks our common humanity. A family member sent me the above humorous piece and it seemed fitting to launch on the eve of the Impeachment trial of a president who, among others things, does not laugh very much or make us laugh very much.  Maybe this will help him as well as the rest of us.   

“Hard times require fierce dancing” says Alice Walker.  She is so right.  Also, I propose, hard times require fierce laughing. 

Thank you, comedians, for your sense of humor and sharing it.  Surely comedy is one of the greatest of all our divine-like arts of creativity.  What a noble vocation it is!  Remember: If you can laugh you are an artist!

In the midst of serious work critiquing and resisting folly and injustice (often the same thing), we must keep ourselves oiled and wet by keeping our sense of humor alive and well.  It’s always dangerous to take ourselves too seriously.  And our projects.

“Laughing Together” Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas endorses the virtue of eutrapelia or play this way: “To be playful is part of the virtue of modesty.” 

Why?  It is knowing our limits, recognizing we are all human and therefore limited and in need of play as well as work. We need balance in our lives. 

Aquinas cautions that it is wrong to be a burden to others by hiding our enjoyment.  He calls people who are “without mirth” sinful and “ungrateful boors.”  He says: “Anyone who is without mirth is not only lacking in playful speech, but is also burdensome to others, since they are deaf to the mirth of others.  Consequently they are said to be ungrateful boors.” 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, p. 438.

Banner Image: “Untitled” Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Do you know people (including yourself) who are at times “without mirth” and therefore “ungrateful boors”?  What can you do about it?

Do you agree Hard Times require Fierce Laughing? 

Did you laugh out loud at the link that led to satire on the wall?  How many times?

Recommended Reading

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way.  The result is exciting!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Orvieto-Newest-Banner-Draft.png
Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

Share this meditation


Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox is made possible through the generosity of donors. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation

Search Meditations





Receive our daily meditations

4 thoughts on “Humor and the Prophetic Calling”

  1. Avatar

    Fr. James Martin, SJ writing in America April 02, 2007:
    Joy has a distinguished heritage in the Christian spiritual tradition. It is easy for most Christians to imagine someone like St. Francis of Assisi smiling. More recently, Pope John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta were often captured by photographers smiling and even laughing. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., said, Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God. Yet lightheartedness is still an unwelcome guest in some church circles. Many Catholics have met church officials for whom being a religious leader seems to mean being deadly serious. Catholic spiritual writing often focuses on finding God through suffering but far less often on finding God through joy. Some Masses belie the term celebration. Are joy, humor and laughter considered inappropriate for serious Catholics? If so, why?
    I must admit that my strongest remembrance of Pope John Paul II is of him pointing his finger at the kneeling Cardenal. For me Pope Francis exudes Joy, not only writes about it.

  2. Avatar

    Thank you for reminding us of the joy of laughter as a gift from God and of our tendency to take ourselves too seriously!

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Ed,
      I suppose we should just take our humor any way we can get it – even from this President. Congratulations on being able to laugh about it. I have gone to Saturday Night Live videos so many times to help me get through the pain of these past years. The comedians are my magicians, they change the awful into the wonderful right in from of my eyes. I hold them in deep gratitude. The laughter they cause ripples across America and helps us stay sane.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

Leave a Comment

To help moderate the volume of responses, the Comment field is limited to 1500 characters (roughly 300 words), with one comment per person per day.

Please keep your comments focused on the topic of the day's Meditation.

As always, we look forward to your comments!!
The Daily Meditation Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join us in meditation that supports your compassionate action

Receive Matthew Fox's Daily Meditation by subscribing below: