Street Level Faith


by Rev. Ione Grover

Who is a retired United Church minister living in St. Marys

Last Friday I attended two gatherings on April Fool’s Day. You may be wondering why I’m bothering to mention this rather unimportant day, one that is barely recognized by most people. To me, it is a time when we can celebrate our foolish natures and allow the clown or trickster in us to come out. Rather than playing pranks and making others look foolish, I see it more as an opportunity when we ourselves can dress or act foolishly. For example, I wore something a wee bit outlandish and eccentric to both meetings, a mismatched top with a long skirt and a jester’s hat. I feel that we often take ourselves too seriously. I know I do. I usually dress in a very proper, conventional style as befits a woman of my vintage. It gave me a chance to break out of this box and have fun doing it, which is the whole point of the exercise.

I have long been fascinated with the tales of tricksters in mythology, folklore and in Native American traditions. A trickster is an archetypal character who appears in the myths of many different cultures. They often break rules and violate principles of social and natural order, playfully disrupting normal life and then re-establishing it on a new basis. Many native traditions held clowns and tricksters as essential aspects of the sacred, since laughter opens and frees us from rigid preconceived thinking.

We live in a very rational, logical world. We are encouraged to work hard for success and strive for perfection. This has been good in creating the kind of affluent society that we have today. Yet I feel something crucial has been lost in our drive for material wealth. Stress often takes over as we forget how to lighten up and laugh, especially at ourselves. Robert Frost said “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.” I think he may be right. Perhaps we need to bring the trickster back into our culture – it could provide the balance we need.

One of my favourite cosmic clown/jesters is Swami Beyondananda ( who calls for an “up-wising” on this planet led by us “mirthlings.” I will give you a sampling of his “fun-damentalist” teachings. “There are two kinds of mystics, pessimystics, who say they’re more in touch with reality and optimystics, who are happier and live longer. For those who want peace in the Middle East, we should first try peace in the Middle West, where it is a dogma eat dogma world. Wouldn’t it be great to go to a voting booth to vote for the greater of two goods? Laughter can help us recognize that we’ve been running in circles, chasing our tales. Those tales tell us that happiness is somewhere out there and in this moment of fool-realization, we fully realize our foolishness and laugh in our own face. This is called self-facing laughter. When we sacrifice being happy for being right, it is called “smartyrdom” The antidote to all this is to leave the static of the head in exchange for the ecstatic of the heart. Since love has us surrounded, we might as well surrender.”

Underneath the Swami’s clever play on words are some very profound truths and an inspired vision of a healed world. We can often hear the truth better when it is sprinkled with humour than when it is preached with gloom.

May we live each day with light, love and laughter!

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