Chesterton says that the best humor is the obvious humor, and that the funniest individuals are the ones who think like an ordinary person. Yet they look at the things we take for granted, such common but extraordinary things as an ordinary person outside of time would look at them. So it would follow that the Humor Monastery would not be funny in and of itself, because the laughter comes from those who dwell there.
When humor becomes too insular, it is no longer humor but a shibboleth for various specialties. Obvious humor is the joke for the masses.
But in our society, everyone specializes. So we no longer have a shared identity for The Common Man. Some would say that this is a good thing, but I think that it is a sad thing, because we have one less thing for the mass of humanity to use as a touch stone to relate us to one another. “Community” can’t entirely do that, because we are naturally limited in what shape that forms, by our surroundings and our choices– not all of them conscious or deliberate. Our minds are limited by how many different kinds of people we can relate to– a built in sort of weakness and limitation. Granted extraordinary people can bridge those gaps, but those gifts are clearly not handed out to everyone.
So what can we learn from a monastery called “humor”? Certainly, it does seem ironic that I’m writing about “humor for the masses” and a monastery is an isolated and seemingly insular place. I bet in the mind of the average person (oops!) that is one of the more insular sorts of places that you can think of.
But in a Catholic sense it is a universal sort of place, where the essence of humanity’s goals are focused upon to the exclusion of all that distraction and passing nonsense– the true meaning of the value of persons is that they were made in the likeness of God. iPods, “the latest trends”, money, even race and culture– all those things are ultimately fleeting. So we still have a view of the “average person” even if he does this thing or that thing to make money for his family or for himself, but as a Child of God no one can be ignored.
Truthfully, the best humor comes from Joy. And a monastery is a good place to start. Because that idea of what is normal ultimately comes from the world– and the world can’t be trusted. One of the greatest things you can do is show that this month’s emperor has no clothes. And that can seem absurd, until the truth is seen, and that is when you split your sides laughing.