Play and Humor in a Time of Coronavirus Crisis

An important part of survival for our species whether in good times or in bad—and especially in bad—is humor, and play, which in turn feed our creativity.  And gives us perspective including that of taking ourselves too seriously. 

This truth is embedded in so many rituals and truths that our cultures and religions teach us—or try to teach us. 

Think of the prophet Jonah mocking the prophets.  Think of the Day of the Dead ceremonies in Mexico that mock death. 

Think of the many comedians in our lives who have tickled us and more but whose life stories are often closer to tragedy than comedy. 

Humor heals.  (Remember the DM’s we devoted to Ken Feit the spiritual fool.)

So in this time of a global pandemic it behooves us also to stay in touch with our sense of paradox and therefore of humor. 

In my recent book on Thomas Aquinas, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times,  I devote a chapter to his teaching that play and fun are Virtues named by Aristotle as eutrapelia. 

He tells the story of how an archer was asked if he could shoot a bow and arrow “indefinitely,” and the archer replied that if he did so “the bow would break.” He then concludes: “In like manner a person’s mind would break if its tension were never relaxed.”

Not only do we need the virtue of eutrapelia for our own health, but we need it for those around us as well. To interfere with or discourage the play of others Aquinas is to act against our humanity, against reason.  He says:

Now it is against reason for anyone to be burdensome to others by offering no pleasure to them, and by hiding their enjoyment.

In fact, Aquinas calls people who lack a sense of humor and cannot laugh ungrateful boors:

Anyone who is without mirth is not only lacking in playful speech, but is also burdensome to others, since they are deaf to the moderate mirth of others. Consequently they are sinful and are said to be ungrateful boors.

I invite you to share in the humor in the accompanying pictures and videos.

It is significant that much of Aquinas’s teaching about play is found in his commentary on the prophet Isaiah. 

A true prophet is eager to celebrate, love life, laugh at its paradoxes, and turn from seriousness to playfulness. (In fact, as Aquinas notes, the Greek word eutrapelia derives from the word trepein, meaning to turn.) 

Ours is a turning time, Joanna Macy calls it a time of the “Great Turning.”  Play assists us to turn.

Celebration is integral to compassion, as Eckhart put it: “What happens to another, whether it be a joy or a sorrow, happens to me.” 

Laughter assists our deepest transformations both psychological and societal, personal and communal.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, chapter 25.

See also: Matthew Fox, Creativity: Where the Divine and the Human Meet.

Banner Image: Growing TP, Monday to Saturday. Internet meme; photographer unknown.

Queries for Contemplation

Have you ever found yourself to be an ungrateful boor out of touch with your sense of humor and paradox?  What do you do to keep alive the virtue of eutrapelia in you and around you and especially in hard times?

Recommended Reading

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet

Because creativity is the key to both our genius and beauty as a species but also to our capacity for evil, we need to teach creativity and to teach ways of steering this God-like power in directions that promote love of life (biophilia) and not love of death (necrophilia). Pushing well beyond the bounds of conventional Christian doctrine, Fox’s focus on creativity attempts nothing less than to shape a new ethic.
“Matt Fox is a pilgrim who seeks a path into the church of tomorrow.  Countless numbers will be happy to follow his lead.” –Bishop John Shelby Spong, author, Rescuing the Bible from FundamentalismLiving in Sin

Your Music Your Way Summit

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11 thoughts on “Play and Humor in a Time of Coronavirus Crisis”

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Hi Daniel,
      It’s good to hear from you. It did not take long for people to start getting creative, and comical after Corona hit. I am so grateful! If we can laugh about our situation, we can survive it. For me, love and laughter are the two things that can break open my ego and loosen my grasp on the things I covet.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  1. Avatar

    Thank you. We so need to fill the activity void we are enduring with play. Productivity cannot be measured at this time, but laughter rewards our hearts.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Thank you, Ali,
      I feel the same. Our capacity for making each other laugh makes me fall in love with humanity again. These days, its the playfulness of the everyday comics on YouTUBE and Instagram, posting from their living rooms who give me hope that we can get through this pandemic with creativity and good humor.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Dailty Meditation Tea,

  2. Avatar

    Thank you so much, Matthew. I too laughed out loud at the delightful video, and your memories about your mother’s last days reminded me of my sister and brother and I at the funeral home after my father died. My father was the youngest of 13 children born in 1909 to Irish immigrants. His lifelong career was as a comedian and musician. The three of us were at the funeral home planning for his memorial service making jokes and giggling the whole time. We were sure that the director of the home must have felt we were the most unfeeling children ever. We knew, however, that Dad was right there with us, that he was still the one tickling our funny bones, and that he was loving the whole thing–including the shock we gave to the humorless funeral director.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Michele,
      That is a great story. How fortunate you were to grow up with so much laughter and good humor among your siblings. I hope you think about making it into a play, if you haven’t already. The image of your Dad’s funeral is delightful – and profound.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  3. Avatar
    Margaret Marie Pinder

    Thank you for this delightful “meditation”. I’m just now enjoying several humorous clips, jokes among friends so to open today’s DM and read is delightful. Perfect timing.

    Be blessed. You are a blessing to us.

    Margaret P.

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Margaret,
      Yes, the humor being created and passed around in response to the Corona crisis is a good indicator that we can get through this difficult time with creativity and good will. Thanks for writing!
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team.

  4. Avatar

    This was great! The cartoons were so perfectly funny, and the birds hilarious! Thank you so much for sharing these, and I certainly will look up the naked pastor. Thanks, Sue.
    I also want to tell you that I was very struck by the wonderful light-filled energy that I felt from Jim Roberts’ photo yesterday. I was so moved by his wonderful smile, his wit, and his way of making fun at himself, that my mood was changed from one of being tired, to one of sheer delight and joy which I brought to bed with me as I laughingly went to sleep.
    I know the power that smiling has had in my life, and am so grateful to have been able to see the funny side of life most of the time. Thanks be to God!

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Thank you, Vivian,
      Any day we can go to bed laughing has been a good day. I am sure Jim would be pleased to hear that his spirit lifted yours.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  5. Gail Sofia Ransom

    Thank you, Sue. I’m going to as soon as I finish this reply!! I expected that people’s creativity and comedy would begin to come out after the first shock of the virus settled in. But we humans have outdone ourselves this time – the gift of social media and YouTUBE! It gives me hope that we will not only survive this crisis, but also create a better way to live together Because of it.
    Gail Sofia Ransom
    For the Daily Meditation Team

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