Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Joking is serious business…

Thomas Aquinas writes in Summa Theologiae 2-2, 168, s.c.:

In human affairs whatever is against reason is a sin. Now it is against reason for a man to be burdensome to others, by offering no pleasure to others, and by hindering their enjoyment. Wherefore Seneca [Martin of Braga, Formula Vitae Honestae: cap. De Continentia] says (De Quat. Virt., cap. De Continentia): "Let your conduct be guided by wisdom so that no one will think you rude, or despise you as a cad." Now a man who is without mirth, not only is lacking in playful speech, but is also burdensome to others, since he is deaf to the moderate mirth of others. Consequently they are vicious, and are said to be boorish or rude, as the Philosopher states (Ethic. iv, 8).

Since, however, mirth is useful for the sake of the rest and pleasures it affords; and since, in human life, pleasure and rest are not in quest for their own sake, but for the sake of operation, as stated in Ethic. x, 6, it follows that "lack of mirth is less sinful than excess thereof." Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix, 10): "We should make few friends for the sake of pleasure, since but little sweetness suffices to season life, just as little salt suffices for our meat."

I knew a guy in my Bible study group in college who concluded from his reading of the Bible not only that joking and even mild sarcasm were wrong but also that smiling or laughing were wrong since, first, we have no biblical indication Jesus laughed or smiled, and, second, we have no cause for joy as sinners until we get to Heaven. Yeah. I think he eventually came back to sanity, indeed he seems to have bounced back as a business owner and tech guru, though I'm sure he's still a fundamentalist.


Lee Faber said...

There's an awesome scene about whether or not Christ laughed in the Name of the Rose.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

I read that book in middle or high school but it went over my head, but it planted the seed that brought me to a knowledge of the Middle Ages which would make reading The Name of the Rose again even richer. Very Eco-esque, that.