Saturday, January 17, 2009

In Praise of Buffoonery

Perfection is overrated. Most of us spend a large portion of our lives striving for perfection--to have the perfect body, get the perfect grades, live the perfect life, have the perfect reputation. Like I said in my last post, we want to keep a good standing in the lifeboat. I, for one, like to keep up perfect appearances. This week, I set out on a couple of new social situations that challenged my introverted soul to it's limit. Don't get me wrong, I love my new class and I have high hopes for the new friendships I'm forming, but I woke up with insomnia every 4 a.m. this week from either memories of a stupid thing I said or did the day before or dread of the stupidity that would occur in the next 24 hours. Playing the buffoon in front of people is a source of constant tension for me.

But something is changing. My beginnings of freedom from the lifeboat came in the form of a joke one of my guy friends told on himself. He said he didn't use the treadmills at the gym because he didn't want to be "that guy" who got on a machine between two hot girls and couldn't work the TV hook-up. I got the mental image of him watching soap operas for his whole workout. The comment was neither a big deal nor entirely true, I'm sure, but it stuck with me. I wondered what I would think of the situation if I witnessed it. I would probably laugh, but not in a way of ridicule. I would laugh because being human can be so funny sometimes. I would laugh and like my friend more for his humanity.

This idea broke something open in my soul. We all have our lifeboat moments, moments where we fail to hold onto out right to look good--and often fail spectacularly. But, I'm trying to live outside of the boat. I'm trying to dip my toes into God's ocean where our buffoonery does nothing to alter our position in life, where it is just a part of the romp. I'm starting to think the ocean looks a lot like the day Aslan made Narnia (The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis). Aslan had just finished giving the land to the newly formed talking beasts. He warned them not to return to the ways of the dumb beasts or they would become dumb themselves. The beasts all insisted that they would do as he said.

"But one perky jackdaw added in a loud voice, 'No fear!' and everyone else had finished just before he said it so that his words came out quite clear in a dead silence; and perhaps you have found out how awful that can be--say, at a party. The Jackdaw became so embarrassed that it hid its head under its wing as if it was going to sleep. And all the other animals began making various queer noises which are their way of laughing . . . . They tried at first to repress it, but Aslan said:

'Laugh and fear not, creatures. Now that you are no longer dumb and witless, you need not always be grave. For jokes as well as justice come in with speech.'

So they all let themselves go. And there was such merriment that the Jackdaw . . . said:

'Aslan! Aslan! Have I made the first joke? Will everybody always be told how I made the first joke?'

'No, little friend,' said the Lion. 'You have not made the first joke; you have only been the first joke.'"

I am far from being the first joke, but I do have the chance to be a few of the more recent ones. I want to learn to follow the Jackdaw and laugh at myself. I want to trust that others who live outside of the lifeboat will laugh at our shared humanity. And in the deep places of my heart, I cherish the knowledge that the God of all flesh, the Maker of the first joke, laughs with me too. He laughs and loves me more for my buffoonery.

1 comment:

purpleprose 78 said...

The most freeing thing that I've learned in my life is that other people aren't actually judging you. They're worrying about what you're thinking of them.