Monasteries of the Heart

Old Monk's Journal: Journal Entry 162

Lily Tomlin played in Erie last week and I’m still laughing…or at least smiling every time I think of her solo performance. What a woman. I’d be hard pressed to think of another 78-year-old who could deliver a two hour, no intermission, performance that included falling to the floor numerous times as part of a skit she was delivering and then standing “without any assistance,” she informed us. I haven’t laughed that hard in years…and more years.

The next day I was reading an excerpt from an Oprah interview with Norman Lear that read in part:

Oprah: You write about when we laugh together we are one. How does laughter elevate the human experience?

Norman: I believe my longevity has depended a great deal on the amount of laughter I’ve had in my life….When an audience laughs together, every seat, you know, side by side, they tend to rise up and out of their chairs a little and down and then back up again….And it there’s anything more spiritual in our life, an audience moving on a belly laugh, I mean, that’s praying, that’s gratitude, that’s enjoyment.

Oprah: Yeah, I never thought of it until you said that: it’s your offering.

Norman: Yes.

Oprah: It’s your praise.

So it got Old Monk thinking that only comedians should be allowed to run for political office…or become ministers for that matter. Because, it’s true that “when we laugh together we are one.” I knew a lot of people in that sold out audience and many of them don’t agree with me politically or theologically. But all of us agreed that Tomlin was an outrageous riot and for 120 minutes “we were as one.” If you know Tomlin, you know that her humor has a political edge but, much like Norman Lear’s Archie Bunker series, she invited all of us to laugh at ourselves. And that is so healing and cleansing and heart-stretching. I like to imagine Tomlin giving the State of the Union address as president and the acrimonious congress and the divided country watching it together joined as one in a most spiritual belly laugh. Next, I imagine her as Pope addressing a gathering of cardinals and bishops….

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A blog by Mary Lou Kownacki
A personal journal captures what’s in the heart. Most of my adult life I’ve recorded my notes, brief reflections, poems, reactions to daily events in a journal. It is an ongoing source of monastic formation; the rich and raw material of life that helps shape my Monastery of the Heart. About a year ago, Old Monk began to appear on my journal’s pages. Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB, is the Monasteries of the Heart coordinator.

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