On Being Seriously Ridiculous
Theology for Holy Fools
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Fools for Christ's Sake
We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.
Slowly and in Quietness Operate by Love
When the Western world accepted Christianity, Caesar conquered; and the received text of Western theology was edited by his lawyers.... The brief Galilean vision of humility flickered throughout the ages, uncertainly.... But the deeper idolatry, of the fashioning of God in the image of the Egyptian, Persian, and Roman imperial rulers, was retained. The Church gave unto God the attributes which belonged exclusively to Caesar.There is ... in the Galilean origin of Christianity, yet another suggestion which does not fit in very well.... It does not emphasize the ruling Caesar, or the ruthless moralist, or the unmoved mover. It dwells upon the tender elements in the world, which slowly and in quietness operate by love, and it finds purpose in the present immediacy of a kingdom not of this world. Love neither rules, nor is it unmoved; also it is a little oblivious as to morals. it does not look to the future; for it finds its own reward in the immediate present.
Speaks in Riddles, Occasionally Disruptive, a Little Oblivious to Morals
In Greek, the term for Holy Fool is salos. In Russian, yurodivy is a Holy Fool, one who acts intentionally foolish in the eyes of men. He or she often goes around half-naked, is homeless, speaks in riddles, is believed to be clairvoyant and a prophet, and may occasionally be disruptive and challenging to the point of seeming immoral (though always to make a point).
The Galactic Lure toward Foolishness
How the Universe Works
1. The universe, the solar system, and the planet Earth, in themselves and in their evolutionary emergence, constitute for the human community the primary revelation of that ultimate mystery whence all things emerge into being.
God as Galactic Lure
God is a lure toward novelty and adventure in the universe. See Comedy and the New: Whitehead, Deleuze, and Reggie Watts.
The Lure toward Transgression
In human societies throughout history, and in popular culture today, responsiveness to the divine lure toward generosity of spirit often takes the form of outrageous, transgressive, extreme and excessive behavior. The lure comes in the form of novel possibilities for thinking, feeling, and acting which, if actualized, will make the world a better place for all, animals and plants included. These novel possibilities typically challenge conventional forms of thinking and behaving They seem "crazy" compared to what is ordinary and expected. Indeed, they prompt what Christian theologians call "the eschatological imagination": that is, the imagination which takes its guidance, not from what has been or even from what is, but from what can be and needs to be: namely justice and love. Christians believe that Jesus was an incarnation of this eschatological imagination. He was the Word, the spirit of creative transformation, made flesh.
Navigating a Path between Ego and Love
Ridiculousness is a common stance among the religious and the otherwise radical. Showy rejections of social norms — rags worn, street corners stood upon, shouts directed at passersby — complement refusals to accept the political or philosophical status quo. Among artists, ridiculousness can be cultivated, but often it's unthinking: not a conscious attempt to balance socially challenging contradictions, but a product of self-indulgence and overblown ego. Rock 'n' roll ridiculousness started out deep — Little Richard unsettling America's assumptions about race and gender, wailing beneath his magnificent pompadour — but ended up a joke — Spinal Tap's bassist stuffing a zucchini in his pants. Between those two extremes, one a genuinely defiant stance shot through with hope and humor and the other a disastrous manifestation of believing your own hype — anyone who believes that rock music can have an impact on people's perspectives has to navigate a path.
On Being Seriously Ridiculous
The Right to be Ridiculous
"When you sing, you make people vulnerable to change in their lives. You make yourself vulnerable to change in your life. But in the end, you've got to become the change you want to see in the world. I'm actually not a very good example of that -- I'm too selfish, and the right to be ridiculous is something I hold too dear -- but still, I know it's true."
Every generation gets a chance to change the world
People who Fear the Ridiculous
The idea that the universe is a communion of subjects and not a collection of objects; that every living being deserves respect and care; that there dwells a mystery at the heart of the universe -- God -- whose nature is love -- these ideas are "ridiculous" to at least three kinds of people: diehard mechanists, religious fundamentalists, and hyper-consumerists.
Category of the Ridiculous
The ridiculous is that which is highly incongruous or inferior, sometimes deliberately so to make people laugh out of their minds or get their attention, and sometimes unintended so as to be considered laughable and earn or provoke ridicule and derision. It comes from the 1540s Latino "ridiculosus" meaning "laughable", from "ridiculus" meaning "that which excites laughter", and from "ridere" meaning "to laugh". "Ridiculous" is an adjective describing "the ridiculous".
Destructively Ridiculous Ideas
The Dream of a Ridiculous Man
The last short story Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote is about being seriously ridiculous. In "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man," an intellectual prone to existentialist despair is saved from suicide when, in a vision, he discovers a parallel planet where humanity has never sinned. "It was like being in love with each other, but an all-embracing, universal feeling," he tells the reader. This contact with Eden reinvigorates him, but then, during a playful moment, he teaches the planet's innocents how to deceive each other — and this leads to a catastrophic, Biblical fall. By the time the man awakens, his Eden has become just like Earth, full of violence, crime and war. It's the world he once thought was meaningless. And still, the man finds himself redeemed. He stands on a corner, preaching the essential goodness of humanity, despite his knowledge of the equally omnipresent potential for corruption. He's a rube for being optimistic, and he knows it. But he declares at the story's end, "I shall go on and on!"
"By S-I-Z-E I mean the stature of [your] soul, the range and depth of [your] love, [your] capacity for relationships. I mean the volume of life you can take into your being and still maintain your integrity and individuality, the intensity and variety of outlook you can entertain in the unity of your being without feeling defensive or insecure. I mean the strength of your spirit to encourage others to become freer in the development of their diversity and uniqueness. I mean the power to sustain more complex and enriching tensions. I mean the magnanimity of concern to provide conditions that enable others to increase in stature."
Ordinary ridiculousness comes from not being aware — from either simply not thinking about bad or excessive choices, or from embracing blind faith in the self, a God or a system. A seriously ridiculous person is clear-eyed. She knows that idealism is a fool's game to begin with, and that every conviction carries the risk of closed-mindedness.
The Authentically Ridiculous Person
She takes on belief as a practice, a way of being around others that seeks common ground. The ridiculous man or woman has found a way to connect things within life's inevitably broken landscape. It's an act of reaching out that can never be fully fulfilled, but which changes things in the moment, which is all we really have.
The Need for Ridiculous Thinking
Our present worldview encourages ever increasing use of resources and pollution. It encourages ignoring relationships and focusing on problems in isolation. My conviction is that a much better worldview is available. To consider the possibility of adopting a better worldview requires radical thinking.
A Constructively Ridiculous Idea
Pando Populus is a platform for people who care about big ideas and the Earth. Our aim is to create an ecological civilization.We’ve taken our name from the largest and oldest organism on the planet — a giant quaking aspen tree, spread over more than a hundred acres, thousands of years old, connected by a single root system.Various movements and organizations focus on one aspect or another of ecological concern. We endorse and celebrate their work.
Coaxing Ridiculous Ideas into Existence
An idea announces itself and it seems like there’s something meaningful to be found by exploring that idea. It’s a process of sitting down over days, or hours, months, sometimes years, and trying to coax that idea into its full state of beingness.
Varieties of Ridiculousness
Let "ridiculous" mean incongruity: a novel idea or activity that seems 'incongruous' with the way things are or are supposed to be. There are three kinds of ridiculousness. The constructively ridiculous, the destructively ridiculous, and the delightfully ridiculous. The delightfully ridiculous is harmless and funny. The destructively ridiculous is harmful for human health. The constructively ridiculous is "crazy" by standards of conventional thinking, but healthy for the well-being of life. In the house of ridiculosity there are many rooms.
Jesus' idea that we can live from the grace of God, sharing with each other in a community of love, was ridiculous to those who thought in hierarchical and power-hungry terms. So was his idea that the most powerful form of power is love not violence. His death on the cross was ridiculous, too. He could have escaped and continued in his teachings from a distance. Instead he chose to take on the sufferings of the world. That idea is ridiculous, too.
Process and Ridiculosity
The advocates of process theology like to think that it is constructively ridiculous, because it is incongruous with dominant forms of thinking and, for this very reason, healthy for people and the planet.
Faith in the Ridiculous
Faith in God is not intellectual assent to the idea that there is a tyrant in the sky; rather it is trust in the availability of fresh possibilities. These fresh possibilities are the spirit of God at work in the world. Some of them are constructively ridiculous, in the sense that they contradict conventional forms of thinking, but are conducive to the well-being of life, either because (a) they open up space for creative thinking or (b) they contain wisdom in their own right. Some of them are delightfully ridiculous, simply because they add joy to life. When we are surprised by constructively ridiculous ideas, we are experiencing a side of God that evinces laughter both serious and playful. We become, for the moment, clear-eyed and authentically ridiculous. We become what process theologians like Patricia Adams Farmer calls "fat souls."
The Ridiculously Fat Soul
All you really have to remember about Fat Soul Philosophy is that a fat soul is a beautiful soul. In the process world view, God is the very Soul of the world, the ultimate instance of The Fat Soul, the One who lures us and all creation toward widening circles of Beauty. God yearns for beautiful relationships of earth and sky and people and turtles. God yearns for us to know that we are all of a piece, all deeply interwoven and wholly beautiful in our differences.