December 20, 2015


The Comedy of Christmas (Joseph Pearce, 12/19/15, Imaginative Conservative)

This past semester at Aquinas College in Nashville, I have had the joy of teaching a whole course on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. A few weeks ago we were discussing the moral dilemma faced by Frodo and Sam when, on separate occasions, in order to avoid the accursed Ring being captured by the Enemy, they choose to put it on, a thing to be avoided at (almost) all costs. I tell my students that this choice presents us with a moral dilemma because it seems that the hobbits are putting on the Ring (an evil act) to prevent the Ring from being taken by the Enemy (an evil consequence that will follow if the evil act is not committed). What, I asked my students, should we do if we find ourselves facing a choice between two evils? In answer, one of my students quipped that Americans face such a choice every four years. The class laughed heartily, as did I.

It was a witty comment, to be sure, but why, I wonder, did we all find such a tragic truth about our present pseudo-democracy so funny? Why is it hilarious that we are presented with a conjurer's trick every election enabling us to choose, once the preliminary circus and shenanigans are over, between Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber? Shouldn't we be crying, rather than laughing, at such a pathetic state of affairs? The answer to such a question is to be found in the presence of irony, specifically in the ironic distance that exists between the high ideal of democracy to which we all in theory subscribe and its absolute absence in the form of it we actually experience.

The delightful paradox is that comedy often expresses and exposes a tragedy, exorcising its evil from our hearts and thereby sanctifying the very tragedy itself through the presence of the ironic comedy. We laugh at the evil we see and thereby somehow conquer it.

Surprisingly perhaps, there is something of the spirit of Christmas in this paradox. The joy and laughter at the birth of the Baby is all the more delightful because it delivers us from evil. The innocence makes us laugh because it delivers us from guilt. The babe taken up in the arms of His Mother brings us joy because He takes up arms against the Devil. The smallness of the Child delights us because his smallness defeats the greatness of the World. The joy and laughter help us make sense of the suffering and tears. The levitas lightens and enlightens the gravitas. It was, for instance, not merely for laughs that Chesterton tells us that angels can fly because they take themselves lightly whereas the Devil fell because of the force of his own gravity. With this spark of epigrammatic brilliance, Chesterton makes the crucial connection between humour and humility. Angels and saints can laugh at the Devil, whereas the Devil can only vent his fury at the angels and saints. The Devil takes himself too seriously to get the joke.

The modern Left is required to take things too seriously to even make jokes.

Posted by at December 20, 2015 7:51 AM