Saturday, January 10, 2015

More On Charlie Hebdo & Humor

More on Charlie Hebdo & Humor

I keep hearing people commenting on the Paris terror attacks saying things like, "how could they attack a newspaper for some little old cartoon that doesn't really matter?" or "if a silly cartoon threatens your belief system, get a new belief system."

To me, this misses the point. The truth is that Charlie Hebdo's humor was VERY dangerous indeed, and it was just because it WAS dangerous that it should be protected. As a society, we compartmentalize the transcendent experiences of life. We contain them, assign them, and box them in to make them less threatening. But in that very act of containing them, we betray the fact that they are more powerful than we pretend they are.

Humor is a very dangerous thing, indeed. It is dangerous because it brackets off the serious and that which we normally call 'important' and relativizes power. The terrorists were right to fear what Hebdo was doing, because their pen was truly mightier than the sword. With a single image, they relativized all that the terrorist thought was truly powerful and important, and indeed even sacred.

Satire can bring down tyrants. A good joke can rob even the most terrible moments of their power to lay a person low. Humor is, in the context of the whole of physical existence, a small and meaningless thing. But in the moment of humor itself, it gains power over the entirety of the physical. I believe that moments like the Charlie Hebdo attack are revelatory. They give us a glimpse of the true nature of the universe. Those who worship power, and those who see God as coercive force and guarantor of human values, safety, security and comfort, can not abide humor's ability to lay low the powerful. For it shows that power to be false, and reveals a greater power grown in subtlety and persuasion.

Humor, in my opinion, points to a spiritual reality that overlays and is intimately connected to physical reality. It is the transvaluation of human values and is an act of ultimacy. What is low is made great, what is great is made low. The terrorists knew of this power, and so attacked it. But in that attack, they also showed that the power of these men was superior to their own, no matter how many people you can kill, nor how much land you can hold. For they could not kill the idea that was born in the minds of these men, nor the ability of humor to lay low all they think is powerful and important.

At the heart of this, for me, is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God's joke on the world. The lowest, the most insignificant, the Suffering Servant Himself, is God. Christ does not react to offense with violence, but by making Himself even lower. Christ accepts taunts, and offense, and pain, because the more low He is brought, the farther He is raised up (Philippians 2, 1 Corinthians 13).

God is that which makes of Himself nothing, and thus creates and redeems everything. Satan is that which is nothing, but seeks to insist on his existence as everything. What a fitting end that the king of liars is himself a liar. An in his insistence on himself, in the claim of coercive power to be the end-all be-all, we denote the knowledge of the lie.

The terrorist see the lies in their own power and so try to insist on the lies all the more. The humorist, like the truth to Gospel Christian, knows the truth, and speaks the truth, and trust in The Truth to do its thing.

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