Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Sacred and Profane (or The Sacred and The Sense of Humor)

Are there things too sacred about which to make jokes? Ask a Muslim that, and your answer will surely be "yes."  Make a joke about what is most sacred to those who practice Islam (I'm not  mentioning it because I don't want a bounty on my head if anyone ever actually figures out who I am) and you'll find out just how lacking in humor are members of their faith when it comes to what they consider holy. Those who practice Islam aren't overly blessed with the gift of humor when it comes to their faith.

Ask a Mormon the same question as to the existence of topics too sacred to be discussed with any hint of humor. Again, the answer will be yes.  I can go along with this to a degree.  I know what goes on during LDS temple endowment ceremonies, as well as what occurred within them pre-1991, or whenever the most recent big change was. I don't write about those things, either seriously or in jest. I may make the odd joke about the magic underwear, but that's about as far as it goes. And as far as that goes, if a church goes so far as to dictate to its upper-echelon (temple-endowed) members   what kind of underwear they must wear, that church should be prepared for at least a little mirth at their own expense. Laugh it off or let it roll right off one's back.

Special undergarments  notwithstanding, other than writing of my experience at being baptized for the dead in a Mormon temple, I generally don't joke about temples all that much.  I will say in seriousness that holding weddings in places where not all close family members, including even a bride's or groom's parents in some cases, are allowed to attend, is contradictory to the ideology of any church which professes that family comes first. I'm not saying that for the sake of humor, though.  I'm dead serious.

Some readers (or one reader posing as some readers) came across a blog from many months ago in which I made references to Mormons who drink coffee, Mormons who practically worship Mitt Romney (this was before the election; Mitt has lost even most of his Latter-day Saint flock by now), and stake presidents,   and took umbrage  in a not particularly articulate manner at all that I had to say. I was bored so I responded. It was a waste of computer life span, health of my wrists (pianists and those who type excessively are at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome), and perhaps even of  function of my brain, as one's brain is only going to think so many thoughts before it decides it has had enough and ceases to function. My dad says there is no scientific basis to support my "maximum brain function" hypothesis, but he's an oncologist and hematologist. What makes him think he knows any more about brains than does the next person?

Anyway, what is truly too sacred to be the subject or object of humor?  The answer  varies from one person to the next. As much of a cafeteria-variety Catholic as I am (pick and choose what aspects of the faith you want to follow just as you pick your entree and side dishes), I can't find anything about Jesus' final week as a half-mortal remotely amusing. (I wouldn't put anyone else on a death list for disagreeing and creating a cartoon about the crucifixion, although I probably wouldn't choose to be that person's friend.)  Anyone's death is something about which I'm not comfortable making jokes, whether because of the sanctity of death or merely out  of respect to the survivors or the deceased himself or herself.  I  don't find the suffering of very many people to be particularly amusing anyway, but the lack of humor factor rises exponentially when it's the suffering of a child or an animal involved.  I can't watch either St. Jude's Hospital commercials or those Sarah McLachlan SPCA ads or Humane Society ads or whatever they are. My inability to watch them is probably because I'm squeamish, but the subject matter itself really bothers me. Is that because it is sacred, though? Maybe it is. Perhaps we have a sacred obligation as a society to protect animals and children to the very best of our ability. Or perhaps I just have PMS and had to click off one too many Sarah McLachlan or st. Jude's Hospital commercials tonight.

I think it runs in the family. My mom has the same tendency. I remember once when I was about ten. It was December and  she was driving us to practice for a Christmas program, and the radio station was playing Christmas stuff.  The Littlest Angel , which isn't even a song, was read dramatically by someone like William Shatner over a musical background. My mother got all weepy, and she had to drive around the block about sixteen times until she could get her emotions under control. We were about five minutes late, and there were people outside the church auditorium standing in the fog, waiting for her to unlock the door to the auditorium.

My brother has the same tendency, though, and he can't even blame PMS, or if he can, he has problems far beyond anything I can hope to cover in this blog or anywhere else. Anyway, once during the end of one of those Cerebral Palsy or Muscular Dystrophy telethons, he got really caught up in the moment and called the number on the screen and pledged one thousand dollars. He got his name announced on TV, which is how my mom found out about it. You'd think the volunteers answering the phones on those telethons would be trained to recognize a young child's voice-- I think Matthew was five -- and ask to speak to an adult before processing the donation. Those pledges aren't legally binding, or certainly not when made by a five-year-old. My parents wrote out a one-hundred-dollar check and called it even.  The telethon people would have liked more, but they were lucky to get the hundred bucks.

It seems perfectly appropriate for anyone to take his or her religion seriously at least to some degree (in this regard as in many other, my dad is inappropriate). It is probably reasonable to expect others to refrain from desecrating the things you consider most holy if they know that you consider those things as such.   On the other hand,  if the things you consider holy beyond desecration are undergarments, drinking or not drinking coffee, Mitt Romney and his entire family, or even the protection of the family (!!!)  and the sanctity of marriage, it might be a bit of a stretch to assume that everyone who posts or blogs on the Internet knows your feelings and will avoid these topics as though they're the ebola virus.

The Internet contains a wealth of views on virtually any topic one could imagine.  Pick any topic. If youcan't think of one, grab a magazine and randomly open it to a page. Google, it, Bing it, ask Jeeves about it , MSNsearch it, or  check it out on the Internet in whatever way suits your fancy. If  the topic is gravity, there may not be too much disagreement or controversy. On almost any other topic, probably one will find controversy and divergent viewpoints. The comments after the main entry are often where the greatest controversy can be found , but even the main body of the article may be controversial or even offensive from your viewpoint. If your purpose for searching is to learn more about something or if, in searching blogs,  perhaps wishing to learn about others' viewpoints, it might be fruiful to read what the author has to say. If, on the other hand, one wishes to find facts and beliefs that support one's already existing belief system and one might be offended by anything to the contrary,  one might do well  to quickly scan the article, or at least the opening and closing paragraphs, to see if what has been written is something that will annoy, offend, incense, or otherwise ruin one's day. If such is the case,  it would behoove one to bypass the article.

If, on the other hand, one derives pleasure from reading blogs or other posts at message boards and looking for places to disagree with a poster or blogger, criticize the person not just for his or her writings and point of view  but for his intelligence, character, usefulness as a human being, and general right to occupy space on the planet, by all means use the various search engines available on the Internet  for such purposes. Find blogs or posts with which to disagree, using the most vitriolic non-expletive words of which you can think. (It's not wrong in the eyes of God to call someone a worthless piece of poop as long as you say poop rather than shit. It's all in the technicalities. Jesus doesn't really care what's in your heart. It's the little things -- like not wearing a cross around one's neck or ,heaven forbid, getting more than one piercing in your ear, that will make a difference in the end.

Don't just stick to your feelings regarding what was written in a person's blog wen criticizing in response. Read between the lines. It's probably The Spirit telling you what to write and just how to insult the person. Call the writer an idiot. It will let him or her know the truthfulness of the gospel if you speak to him or her in such a way. Tell the person he or she does not know what he or she is talking about. It isn't remotely possible that the person may know more about the topic of discussion than you do.

This is the Internet. You can say or do anything, or claim to be anyone with  The Spirit on your side. Tell the original author that you cannot understand why everyone who knows him or her does not hate his or her guts. He or she needs to hear this. Choose the right! This is righteous indignation, just like when Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple.  Tell the writer that no one cares what he or she thinks.  It doesn't matter that you have no way of knowing how many people care about what he or she thinks, that you have no idea how many people like or love the person, or what the person's actual intellectual capacity is.
Afterwards, if you feel that you may have erred in judgement ever so slightly, apologize for maybe just one of the many  things you said, but try not to sound too sincere, and let the blogger know you were angry and you had every right to be. (Don't forget about the temple and the money changers and righteous indignation.)

Then when you go to church or Young Women's meetings, or to Sunday School, speak about the iniquity of bullying (except when doing so in defense of the church; then it's ok) or the importance of being a shining example of righteousness to non-members. No one knows what you wrote on the Internet.

Consider that on the outside chance, the person to whom you are writing was in a shaky emotional state when he or she wrote what he did. Consider that your responses sent him or her over the edge, and perhaps he or she downed an entier bottle of tylenol, then drove, thirty miles to a dry lke bed that isn't often visted until water is released into it in the summer. Perhaps the writer stayed there so nonone would fine him or her until the writer died of liver failure. First of all, the person was breaking the word of wisdom, so he or she was not a very worthy person. second, everyone knows suicide is a serious sin, and the person will probably spend eternity  in outer darkness. How could this be your fault? Were you supposed to read the entire Doctrine and Covenants to this idiot just to make sure you hit section 89. And one person can't be responsible for another's harmikng himself or herself. you are NOT your brother's or sister's keeper.

The outside chance didn't happen, of course. The blogger is alive, well, and acetaminophen free, and plans to remain that way for a long time,  But how could you have known?

Congratulations in choosing the right and in being one of Zion's youth in Latter Days, triumphant, pure, and strong.

No comments:

Post a Comment