Thursday, 13 September 2018

Dickens makes me laugh

It’s not just the wonderfully preposterous names in Dickens that make me laugh out loud, but they do help.  So, even when his stories are set in abject poverty or describe total degradation we want to continue reading because these intensely human characters have names like Mr Pumblechook, Herbert Pocket or Mr Jaggers – all from Great Expectations which is my current bedtime read!

Humour is one of the ways we cope with all that life throws up.

Last week I listened to some of the interviews Rachel Bland, the Radio 5 Live newsreader, gave in the year leading up to her death from breast cancer.  She cried only once in those interviews but laughed countless times.  It was humbling and inspirational to hear this young woman talk of her journey through this terminal illness and it was clear that, for her, one of the things that remained precious right up to the end was her sense of humour.

Whilst on holiday in East Africa last month our jeep broke down on the edge of the Serengeti wilderness.  I discovered I had two internal responses.  On the one hand I was busy in my mind writing a letter to the tour company pointing out the consequences of driving us around lion infested landscapes in an old jeep!  On the other, I was smiling and laughing with my fellow passengers as our wheel problem was fixed by a branch being cut down from the scrub by a machete, sawn in two and placed either side of the dislodged wheel to keep us on the road for a further two hours and back in time for lunch!

Sometimes, when there’s nothing more you can do, the only thing is to laugh.

Humour can so often bring things down to size, put them in perspective and stop us from thinking Armageddon is just around the corner – and perhaps, most importantly, it stops us taking ourselves too seriously.

Jesus, especially in his use of parables, often used the sort of cultural humour which may be lost on us today.  I suspect the fact that his message contained a ‘chuckle factor’ meant it was readily received and remembered because an amusing story is a great way to illustrate a deeper truth.  As Mr Dickens knew only too well!

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