It can be hard to find joy in a time of great uncertainty. Mosi Harrington shares the power of lightheartedness to help us get through dark times.
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I can remember Margret Baker and I getting the giggles at a business meeting one time when everybody was just horrified that nobody had answered the telephone in the White House, our resident building here, for two years. Just nobody had ever been assigned the task! We have all these hundred committees and that one just never got assigned, and she and I just cracked up. Everybody else was stroking their beard over it but you know, we bumble through life as best we can and you might as well laugh.
Practicing the Spirituality of Lightheartedness
I’m Mosi Harrington. I live in Hyattsville, Maryland (at the edge of DC), and I am a member of Adelphi Friends Meeting.
There’s a Pendle Hill pamphlet, which is a series of Quaker pamphlets, called “The Spirituality of Lightheartedness,” and in the pamphlet she [Helen Steere Horn] maintains that we’re called to joy, and that Jesus said that we could lay down our burdens and rest, and that the Psalms say that we can find a path of joy. She feels that there was, uh — that Jesus had a sense of humor; that calling Peter “the rock” was a nickname, a playful nickname, and that a lot of the analogies he used were casual talk. When you said, um, “You can’t go through the eye of a needle,” or something like that it was the equivalent of us saying, you know, “A snowball’s chance in hell” or something. It was that kind of language, and that we’ve lost a lot of that.
It’s definitely one of our Quaker faults that we take ourselves too seriously, and it gets in the way sometimes of us doing good work. And… We tend to be judgmental sometimes. You don’t associate with someone who doesn’t recycle? Well, that person might be doing prison visitation and you’re not! So there are all kinds of ways of being more forgiving. God has put us in this gorgeous world and if we just go like little moles, looking neither to the right or left, I think that frankly, God gets pissed and that’s when we are unhappy.
Lightheartedness in Dark Times
Part of the spirituality of lightheartedness is that it can get us through dark times and I have just numerous examples of times when it has done that. We had a friend in meeting who, in her will, wanted to leave her kids laughing and she left the thing that they hated the most to each child. So somebody got the old fainting couch with the stuffing coming out and somebody got the 20 year collection of National Geographics, and they roared, you know, at this somber, tearful scene of getting the will read, they laughed.
Someone else was in a men’s group with somebody in meeting, and the person was dying and he went to visit and he took a joke book, and his wife said, “I don’t think that’s the right thing,” but he took it anyway and they just roared with laughter. And sometimes if you’re in an ongoing situation you develop a little bit of dark humor that get you through things, and I think it’s a gift and I think it’s the spirit moving in us, not to take ourselves so seriously. You’re a child of God, but there are billions of children of God, and they’re all working — many of them want to leave the world a better place. It’s really not all on you, and to take yourself too seriously is really an act of arrogance, and we just need to relax and enjoy.
- Do you agree that Quakers can take themselves too seriously? Why or why not? What’s valuable about being serious? What’s problematic about it?
- What are some ways to incorporate the spirituality of lightheartedness into your life, especially in dark times?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.