We just got back from our week at Chautauqua; it went well, in spite of the rain.
I conducted the Sunday worship service for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship there, and I delivered a lecture during the ethics-series week. My title was “Humor as a Moral Imperative.” The point: we have an ethical responsibility to develop, nurture and keep a good sense of humor.
I explored the question: ‘What is a good sense of humor?” This question is no laughing matter: the Greek philosophers said that a person isn’t fully human until the first laugh-that, they said, is when the soul is fully formed.
I’ve been invited to do a five-part series next summer on a topic of my choosing. I accepted, hoping to use the opportunity as the basis of a long-delayed book I want to write.
While at Chautauqua, on Friday morning I got a call from Paul Becker’s family letting me know that Paul died the night before. For the past few months Paul has been struggling with an aggressive cancer, trying every possible treatment.
Paul is a long-time member of our congregation. He was responsible for a lot of the laughter that has been shared among us-he wrote, produced and directed several of the early spring-fling events. A few years ago he gave me those manuscripts-some of his routines have been used in our more recent shows.
Not long ago, when he was in the hospital, he and I talked together about his life. The unspoken assumption was that he might very well be in the closing scene of the last act. Through his pain and anxiety he said, “I haven’t missed much in my life.” I told him I knew that.
During that important conversation he said; “There are two things I couldn’t have lived without: The first is my sense of humor-which I have not lost, by the way!” He smiled, paused, and said, “The second is music.” He closed his eyes, as if he was hearing some favorite piece, and he smiled. I sat with him and cherished that sacred silence.
Paul and his beloved Diane had a plan to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary at the end of the summer. On Sunday, August 29, we will celebrate their love, his sense of humor, and his appreciation of music and the arts–including the art of friendship, which I had the great pleasure of experiencing first hand. As long-time, devoted Chautauquans, Paul and Diane were pleased that Lory, Carlyn and I became active summer participants there. I can picture them sitting together in the Hall of Philosophy when I was delivering the sermon. We shared ideas, concerns about the world, food and laughter-nourishment for the soul.
I hope you are well and I look forward to seeing you soon. Keep smiling.