Last night I dreamt that the Dalai Lama came to hear me talk at a synagogue. It was a surprise visit and I was not prepared. Despite extreme nervousness, I welcomed His Holiness, and addressed the congregation:
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that his religion is kindness. In this he is my teacher, but not my mentor. While I admire his faith and am infinitely challenged by the sacred arts of lovingkindness, kindness itself is not my religion.
My religion is humor. It has been since I was a child. Humor was and is the way I get through my day. It was and is the means by which I make sense out of life. It was and is what I bring to the table. Whenever I teach there are always people smarter than I, more involved than I, more holy than I. Rarely are there people more funny than I. It is for this reason that the Dalai Lama’s friend, Sister Jose Hobday, has blessed me with the title, Holy Rascal.
The art of the Holy Rascal is to pull the rug out from under certainty by showing how funny and absurd our surety really is. When we laugh at our beliefs, we laugh at ourselves on a very deep level. We cut the mooring ropes and set ourselves adrift on the sea of uncertainty.
For some this is frightening, for me it is liberating. If I have no idea where I am going I can’t get lost. If I have no final destination, wherever I am is just fine—no matter how awful it may be.
When I speak about religion and spirituality, I find it funny, and share the humor of it with my listeners. I don’t tell jokes; I see them. I don’t try to be funny; I just don’t hold back the silliness that passes not only for formal religion, but new age spirituality as well. For the life of me, I just cannot take God and religion seriously. I don’t think God does either.
As a Jew humor–as–religion is part of my culture. It is not insignificant that the namesake of my people, Israel, was first called Isaac, “laughter.”
What my religion lacks, yours (I am leaning across the podium and clearly addressing the Dalai Lama personally) provides. My humor often lacks compassion. When faced with the choice between kindness and the joke, I will all too often go for the joke. I have much maturing to do. And in this I look to you, sir, for guidance.
But for now: A rabbi, an imam, and a Buddhist priest walk into a bar…..
And then I woke up! Not spiritually of course, just physically.