Charlotte and I enjoyed our evening at the ‘Monty Python Live (mostly)’ show. We, with the thou-sands there, laughed and enjoyed the memory lane experience. We knew many of the sketches – knew the lines – knew the jokes – and we still laughed. Yes, they performed ‘Michelangelo and the Pope’ so I was happy – plus versions of the Four Yorkshiremen, Dead Parrot, and the Cheese Shop. When the actors (John Cleese in particular in our performance) ‘broke character’ and started laughing themselves or tried not to laugh – we still laughed (and often more so). But I didn’t laugh at everything. What I thought was newer material was not particularly funny to me. And one sketch from the 70s should have stayed there, in my opinion.
Times change and humour does too. There’s a scene in the 1960s movie ‘The Time Machine’ when the Time Trav-eller is moving through the years of the 20th century watch-ing the fashions change on a mannequin in a store front window. Very early in his moving through time he looks at the mannequin’s attire and asks ‘Is that a dress?!’ such were the changes but he’s silent about fashion when he comes to the 1960s – perhaps used to the wide variety of change.
Humour, fashion, morality, the law are certainly changing. Our communication technology has shrunk the world incredibly. Distance is no barrier to staying in contact. Because communication technology is now so public and permanent we are having discussions about the ‘right to be forgot-ten’ in cyberspace and this week I read of a blogger who was fined for a negative review given of a restaurant that was found too high on search engines. Are bloggers journalists to be protected under the law? In the past a bad review in a newspaper – unless cut out and saved – would proba-bly be the next day’s rubbish wrapper but now the review can be in cyberspace for years. What is the ‘life’ of a review? This week a letter from a primary school head teacher to grade 6 went viral because it said that exam results are not the be-all and end-all of everything and that the students can be judged by many criteria (eg. being helpful and kind). It went viral, I think, because people saw the letter positively but most of the comments I read were condemnatory – basically accusing the writer of being unrealistic about life, not aspirational or accepting that standards exist. Of course people have always seen things differently but I wonder whether we are increasingly inca-pable of even agreeing on the issues.
And yet some things don’t ever change. I hope you don’t prove me wrong (!) but my guess is that laughter can be infectious and bonding. I recall that there is a clip on the net of a mother and her four babies and the babies are just giggling and giggling and I reckon that everyone who watches them smiles and laughs as well. We are bonded by our humanity and the deep desire for love and kindness and affection. We recoil from cruelty and viciousness and evil. We look for meaning and purpose, happiness and as long a life as possible. (Ideally it shouldn’t be at another’s expense.)
Life will continue to change – so will what we wear, why we laugh, and what we think is the best way to live as a society. But as each generation comes along we all want to love and be loved. Our history shows us we have a hard time doing that. That’s why each generation needs to hear the good news that God loves us. Jesus’ cross and empty tomb can become the anchor points when everything is changing that best helps us navigate through each day whether we are laughing or crying. — GS