Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Post Script on Roald Dahl, Author's Corner

My husband and I had a discussion today, and last night, about the nature of humour.  It's surprisingly absent in the Bible, but at one point the Apostle Paul encourages people to avoid "coarse joking" (in the King James). Why we never see humour in the Bible is curious, but I don't think that means it can't be a vital part of a balanced life.

I don't want to offend anyone who holds a more conservative view of what constitutes appropriate humour, or what constitutes appropriate censorship in children's literature.  I haven't read James and the Giant Peach yet, but last night in my research I learned it was censored in some schools because of the word "ass" and because of an "attitude of disrespect".  I don't know how the word "ass" was used without reading the book.  In any case, I would probably just mark it out with a pen in my copy. As far as the alleged disrespect goes, I would probably weigh whether it was directed at the antagonist or the protagonist, and decide from there.

My husband wisely pointed out that the Bible teaches us to respect positions of authority, meaning that if we don't like a particular president, or a child doesn't like a particular teacher, the position must still be respected, and thereby, the person holding it.

So then I wonder, is all rebellion against evil inherently bad? Without rebellion, can we progress as a society, or does might always make right?

What exactly is the nature of humour?  Is it inherently irreverent, to some degree?  I enjoy physical humour, for instance, and while I laugh at people slipping on bananas in old movies, I would never laugh if this happened to someone around me.  I believe people, including school-age children, get the notion that we can't really behave this way.  In the same way, I give school-age children credit for understanding that exaggerated characters, and the humorous way they're portrayed in stories, don't represent real life.

Humour comes from a certain point of view--from the outside looking in. If you've ever known outrageously funny people, you've probably noticed they have a hard time being serious--it's unnatural to them.  In my view this isn't a flaw in their character, but a particular personality type.  Might I suggest that God gave humour to us, through this personality type?   We shouldn't abuse the gift of humour and engage in "coarse joking", but neither should we devalue it as another of God's graces, to get through hard times spent on a fallen earth.

If you take a more conservative view, I understand that and don't mean to devalue it.  Our daily reality here, living with special needs and other issues, makes our need for humour great. As a result, my reading shelves may look different than yours.  

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