Incongruent Laughter

Sometimes I laugh at inappropriate times.  I laugh too loudly or in the wrong company.  Sometimes I don’t laugh when others clearly think I should.  Sometimes my sense of humor is a little twisted and I let on to how immature I really can be.  This can be a tricky business, particularly between cultures.  Yet what is most important is now how we laugh, not when we laugh, but precisely that we laugh.  It is essential to the human condition.

What makes us laugh?  Or why do I sometimes laugh at a different time than others around me?  One of my favorite authors, James V. Schall, suggests that “our laughter depends on our seeing the incongruity of things.”  (The Order of Things, p. 17)  The world was created a natural order, with categories, and our minds built to recognize them.  When those categories don’t match up or when our rational mind perceives an apparent irrationality, it does not interpret this as foolishness.  Instead, we find comedy, laughter.  Perhaps like these pictures below:

Art for Arts Sake

Google: “Did you mean battleship?”

Customs Sniffing Dog

Ronald Reagan on a Velociraptor

(Ok, maybe you didn’t find that last one as funny as me.  But if you shook your head rather than smiling, I guess that validates my introductory statement.)  The point is this, we find something humorous when it is not as we would expect; two things dissimilar aren’t meant to go together, but yet they do.

We have much to laugh about in this life, even when the world seems dark around us.  That is not by accident.  The Creator of this world, who transcends time and space, stepped down from his post and limited himself by taking on human flesh (John 1:14, Philippians 2:6-8).   The savior and king who was sent to deliver this hurting world arrived in a manger, surrounded by filthy animals, travelers and misfits (Matthew 2:9-11, Luke 2:7-11).  And one day the lion will lay down with the lamb without hesitation or fear (Isaiah 11:6, 65:25).

The Lion and the Lamb

What peculiar images!  Maybe these don’t inspire us to laugh out loud, but they are indeed reasons to give us joy.  This Christmas season, amidst parties and family gatherings, I hope you have found much cause to laugh.  More richly, I hope the incongruency of this season brings joy to your soul that laughter can only begin to describe.