Category Archives: Humor

Connect to the Chuckle Beyond the Easy Thought

Breaking out reactive control to embrace the unknown.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

“All want to do, is empty my emerald-filled pockets on this tear stained world for you.”- Hafiz

This weekend, Julia and I were fortunate to play a concert for two wonderful communities in Ohio. At one of the events, our dear friend and guest speaker, Lisa Ferraro, offered an inspired talk about being mindful of, what I’ll refer to as, “the easy thought” and the thought that follows on its heels.

Very often, our mind will assess a situation and present us with what it thinks will be the best, easiest or most pleasurable thing for us. Occasionally, this will be followed by a quieter thought that will seem harder but speaks to something that is beneficial on a deeper level which may turn out to be even more significant for us.

This, soul/heart/intuitive thought, (call it what you can dance with), often prompts us to embrace the unknown. Our mind is often annoyed with this thought because it will take more effort and a certain level of surrender. Lisa gave a wonderful personal example of an instance in which her easy thought told her to exit a delayed flight if given the chance and go have a fun with a friend at a great restaurant. Her second thought challenged her to stay on the flight even with risk of further delays, because the possibility that was ahead of her at a conference in NYC was so unknown that it was intriguing. When faced with the choice, she decided the original plan was more important and stayed the course. Lisa not only had an experience in NYC that was beyond what she could have imagined but she ended up being of tremendous service to a group of misplaced travelers attending the conference. Her story and talk encouraged us to listen to the thought that follows, allowing ourselves to go into the unknown and “letting love blow our minds.”

During our concert that followed, a colorfully dressed bearded character with a large peace sign necklace waltzed in and locked eyes with me. I smiled at him but his expression seemed to suggest, “we will see if you are for real.” As we started playing, song by song, we witnessed him rejoice with his whole being. His audible expressions added a tangible affirmation that lifted and drew others out of their shell. He approached us afterwards and extended an invitation to hire us that night to sing for his guided meditation group.

At this time, it is important to note that Julia and I had been marking the end of this concert as the end of our busy week/weekend and the beginning of well-earned rest. The light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. We had been on the road and powered through a number of performances since we’d left NY mid-week. That morning’s 4:30 a.m. alarm reminded us, once again that by 3 pm, we would be able to “turn-off” for the evening, prior to our drive home the next day.

So, when I was approached by this gentleman, my easy thought was, “I’m not sure any amount of money could entice me.” Then, my subsequent thought was, “This is a unique opportunity to expand our community and who could possibly deny this wild appreciative being and his heart-expanding girlfriend?”  So, like a very wise man, I responded, “I have to first consult with my wife.”

She reluctantly agreed, as she was quite attached to our original plan, but was also inspired by the earlier talk.

Later that evening, we arrived at our host’s house and he was guiding a meditation that ended with telling the folks around him to “connect to the chuckle.” He had everyone giggle while focusing on how it centered the spirit, allowing the opportunity for connection. I thought, “Wow, this is a laughing bodhisattva, a spiritual prankster.”

He had set up a keyboard and introduced us to his students. We started to play, and with humility, I realized what a gift we had been given.

Here I thought that Frank, our host, was a joyful radical fringe element of the community we had met that morning. Now, I realized that he was the center of his own group and was acting as a sort of covalent bond, between circles. Julia and I strive to be a bridge between communities, so Frank was kin.

I have always maintained that consciousness thrives in small pockets, rather than in one big organized group. Frank and his girlfriend, Dawnzie, were an emerald-filled pocket onto themselves.

As we played, a young woman asked us to repeat one of our lyrics. Saying aloud to her, “If I could reach across the great divide, our tears would become nourishment and heal us from inside,” it struck me that part of the ability to reach across, was to listen past the easy thought and embrace the chuckle.

Posted all around the meeting room were mandalas, pictures of enlightened figures, and posters with many of Franks light-hearted sayings, such as, “Stay in the Pleasant Tense.” He offered us one of his books of poetry which delighted us all the way home. His phrases have started to come up like a play list in my mind:

THE HOLY GRAIL: THERE ARE MANY HOLY GRAILS – AFFECTION FOR THE MOMENT, GENUINE LOVE FOR EVERYONE AND PASSION FOR LIFE ARE SOME GOOD EXAMPLES.”

BUILD A COMPLAINT FREE ENVIRONMENT AROUND YOU.”

KINDNESS ENRICHES ANY GIVEN MOMENT AND OFTEN CAUSES LOVE TO APPEAR IN PEOPLE’S EYES.”

TRY TO GET CLOSE TO SOMEONE SO YOUR AFFECTION HAS SOMEWHERE TO SPLASH.”

-Frank Tennyson/ author of several books, including, Nod Wisely-Smile Knowingly, No One Wins When Clowns Fight, Zigzagging through the Straight and Narrow.

Enjoy a video of Frank talking about staying in the “Pleasant Tense”: https://youtu.be/FwiXgVmoGXw

Wherever we travel, moment to moment we are offered so many riches, we cannot possibly contain them. Instead of remaining insular, we can listen for the ways we can expand and connect our circles, to spread the wealth around. Chuckling, we will find we are connected to more than we can give away. Julia and I are looking forward to nudging each other towards our intuitive thoughts more often.

The Sanctity of Laughter

A relative anecdote

“Being Jewish has taught me how to laugh! First and foremost, to laugh at myself and at my situation. More important, to laugh in order to act in the world.  This is not to say we are to make fun of someone or make light of our fate. Rather, one is not to take oneself too seriously, but to take one’s responsibilities very seriously. 

Laughter opens the door to hope and healing. It opens up new possibilities. Listen to what’s funny to children and it will reveal a new world and a new generation. The first Jewish child born was called “Yitzchak” (one will laugh).

Laughter- we pack it in our luggage, we season our Friday night soup with it. Often it is mixed with tears.  We have fought despair relentlessly. Laughter is one of our secret weapons.”

-Rabbi Naamah Kelman, first woman ordained in Israel, Hebrew Union College

My father shared the above quote this year at our family’s Passover Seder. Earlier in the day, he told us a story from when he was a boy living in Baltimore.  On Saturdays, after temple, he and his buddy would use their weekly allowance to go downtown for lunch and a movie.  They would catch a street car for a nickel each way. For thirty cents, they could have lunch at the Chinese restaurant, (twenty-five cents for the meal, five cents for the tip.) Afterwards, for seven cents, a matinee at the movie theater. The street car only came every few hours, so if they missed it, they would miss their favorite Saturday adventure. The problem was, it came shortly after temple and the rabbi would walk home right by where they caught the trolley.  Since they were Orthodox, they were not supposed to be taking a street car on Shabbat.  This was the kind of rabbi that would have certainly told their parents and gotten them in trouble. So, if they saw the rabbi coming, they would hide by diving into the hedges where they would pray that the street car wouldn’t arrive until after the rabbi had rounded the corner.  They never missed a movie.  “I guess you could say,” my father concluded, “that was an example of living through prayer.”

My father has taught me how to hold up the essence of what our heritage offers us without being confined by it.  His rabbi would have said he was not taking his responsibilities seriously but my dad grew up to be the most responsible individual I have ever met.  

I intrinsically see and relish universal truths that dance outside the circle of my prescribed faith. Yet, because of my father, I also know that with prayer, you don’t have to miss the matinee.

Year after year, we hear the same story of Moses being hidden among the bulrushes but this was the first time I heard about my dad diving into the hedges. This puts the tradition of gathering together to celebrate our freedom in proper perspective. Emancipation comes in many forms. Sharing laughter with loved ones is perhaps my favorite. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the history of my people.

 

Belief and the cosmic telescope

On days when we feel fragile, it is vital to remember how much vitality we have.  Certain gifts are made accessible in the moments that we need them.  There is no end to our supply but our belief systems become so firmly locked in place we succumb to the will of the projected majority.  Individually, we can feel we have no power.  From the ego’s vantage, the power we have is limited to what we can grab.  We are not dog kings that need to flash swords to defend our alloy thrones.  We are folded in grandeur.  Do constellations despair that they are powerless in the sky?  Are we observed and marveled at even now?
*********************
Julia and I are holed up at the airport. Our flight to Ft. Lauderdale has been delayed.
On the heels of little sleep, my outlook on reality has been revivified by thumbing through issues of The New Yorker that we haven’t had time to peruse during the past month.
New Yorker
Culture, humor and a literate lens make a great tonic.
It is vital to recall in moments of burnout or exhaustion that the rabbit hole we are looking down isn’t necessarily the future but a willful insistence that we look through the wrong end of the telescope.
Of course it could be said that I often look through a kaleidoscope. In honor of this, I would like to share a scene from the Terry Pratchett movie, Hogfather. (Hogfather is Santa Clause on a fantasy version of earth called the Discworld.) The character speaking in all caps is Death:
HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
“So we can believe the big ones?”
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
“They’re not the same at all!”
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”
MY POINT EXACTLY.
You need to believe in things that are not true, how else
Can they become…?
Terry quote
May we continue to believe in peace on earth and good will to all sentient beings.