Lewis & Laughter “He was a man of laughter and surprises, of jokes and joy…and had a sunny heart ” What is humor? “The ability to perceive, enjoy, or express what is amusing, comical, incongruous, or absurd.” In a world of Christian rationalism, does humor have a place? If so. . .
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“He was a man of laughter and surprises, of jokes and joy…and had a sunny heart”
“The ability to perceive, enjoy, or express what is amusing, comical, incongruous, or absurd.”
If so. . .
Why would C.S. Lewis—Oxford professor, hard-nosed rationalist, and superb arguer of the Christian faith (a very serious thing indeed) spend time on the enjoyment of humor?
Humor allows us to see through this world, into the next, and thereby to better understand this world.
Lewis’ dry wit developed as a sort of bridge to his brother and over his father, who could be sitting, Lewis wrote “in his armchair, sometimes appeared not so much incapable of understanding anything as determined to misunderstand everything.”
Childhood: the building blocks of laughter
The humor the Lewis boys developed then was a sympathetic and rebellious foot hold in sanity under his father’s “convoluted logic.”
“As he invariably got proper names wrong (no name seemed to him less probable than another). His textus receptus was often almost unrecognizable. Tell him a boy named Churchwood had caught a field mouse and kept it as a pet, and a year, or ten years later, he would ask you, ‘Did you ever hear what became of poor Chickweed who was so afraid of rats?’”—Surprised by Joy…via Surprised by Laughter…
With this example to be up against, one can see the path to logic and reason that Lewis preferred to take. However, his father did pass on to him a love of comedic writers (ex. Dickens) who would later influence the little Lewis to guide his reader through his maze of logic by way of amusement.
As we’ve discussed, after a step to theism and a bike ride to the zoo, Lewis finally turns this joy, manifested in his physical amusement and wit, to God.
(For main point, see below.)
He realized that the source of the joy was what he had been seeking all of his years
Thus, he was able to see that the joy and laughter he found fighting in WWI, reading Dickens, or molding in his own stories were all part of a greater joy that could have been an expression of God. However, “there is joy in the dance, but it does not exist for the sake of joy.” Humor, like any created good, can be corrupt (whoa! DCM!). So, watch it.
In this realization, Lewis talked about a hierarchy wherein humor bowed to love and then love to God. This meant one could be part of the chain by experiencing any of these in life. He talked much more about their mingling; for example, how a mother laughs at a child out of her love. But now I’m getting ahead of the slides…oh dear.
Lewis had a broad view of humor that included far more than wordplay, jokes, or slapstick comedy. For Lewis, humor was part of the enjoyment of life; from pots of tea in the garden to pints of draught in the pub, from wind racing through one’s hair in a motorcycle ride to a well-played game of chess.
In his stories, Lewis’ characters often engage in feasting, dancing, singing, music, chasing, hunting, joking, and a thousand other activities that show their exuberance in life—the details of life.
A few quotes for your enjoyment…and some more on your handout
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell."
“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket--safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
“It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple...If we ask for something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the something more is not simple. Very often, however, this silly procedure is adopted by people who are not silly, but who, consciously or unconsciously, want to destroy Christianity. Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and make that the object of their attack. When you try to explain the Christian doctrine as it is really held by an instructed adult, they then complain that you are making their heads turn round and that it is all too complicated and that if there really were a God they are sure He would have made 'religion' simple, because simplicity is so beautiful, etc...Notice, too, their idea of God 'making religion simple'; as if 'religion' were something God invented, and not His statement to us of certain quite unalterable facts about His own nature.”