Laughter is Carbonated Prayer

GSV Spring Retreat

April 21 – 23 2017
The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center
Highlands, North Carolina

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The Sacred Fool’s Journey

“It is curious that physical courage should be so common
in the world and moral courage so rare.”

― Mark Twain

The Fool and his helpers in the image here have a different story than the one we know from tarot cards. The tarot Fool is happy to let us witness his courage as he steps off on a new journey, but he shows no interest in sharing how he developed that courage.

-Jean-Antoine Watteau

The Fools in this image are from commedia dell’arte. Unlike the tarot Fool, they encourage us to join them on their journey. They are experts in the art of laughing at themselves; their mission is to teach us this life enhancing skill. The Fool dressed in white is the sad clown; he invites us to project our sadness and fear on to him. With seductive glances, some of the other clowns offer humor to encourage and support us as we explore our sadness and fear. They rejoice when we find the courage to laugh at ourselves and host a bacchanal when we go forth and encourage others to do the same.

In his book, “The Spirituality of Comedy,” published in 1996, Conrad Hyers posits, “laughter is carbonated prayer.” He uses the phrase in speaking of how best to deal with the essentially tragic nature of the human condition. Twenty-one years later, the conditions of our humanity have more potential tragedy than ever and doubly so for those of us in minority communities who have long been oppressed by the majority.

“Prayer” can be a fraught word for those who were told that if we would just pray to God, and behave in a way that pleased Him, we would get an A on the math test tomorrow despite the fact that we had straight C’s so far. Alternatively, that if we counted enough beads as we prayed, mommy and daddy would stop fighting and we could find some peace. When, despite our prayers, we got a C and our parents got divorced, the folks who prescribed this kind of prayer shamed us by suggesting that we clearly had not counted enough beads or used words that their God could understand.

Please take a breath with us …

Blessedly there is now research indicating how and why prayer does and does not produce the results we desire. That has led to a new understanding of prayer as a way to open ourselves to healing rather than subordinate our strength to some “holy” being or image. This same research describes how meditation and breath are effective tools for finding peace.

The beneficial neurochemical changes that we experience from meditation/centering prayer are also present when we laugh. When we laugh at ourselves, we find synergies that enhance carbonization. When others laugh with us as we laugh at ourselves we create an encouraging and inspiring spiritual celebration.

We touched on this briefly at last fall’s conference in the context of bullying and snark. Queer folks have long used snark as a creative response to being bullied. In addition, we have long used snark within our own community since it is usually safer to bully those in our own tribe because it feels safer than speaking truth to power.

There is a sea of difference between laughing at others and laughing at ourselves while inviting others to join us.

Enter the Sacred Fool!

We already know that The Mountain rings with the sound of laughter when we are there. One of our goals this spring is to encourage laughter that offers a deeper understanding of our hearts and the hearts of others.

Do you already know how to laugh at yourself and encourage others to join you? Are you willing to share your experience at the Spring Retreat? If so, please email Pleasure ([email protected]) and we will explore how that might happen.

Registration for the retreat, begins at 3pm Friday. Following dinner, the Opening Circle begins at 7:30pm. Closing Circle begins after lunch on Sunday with a goal of finishing by 2pm.

We’ll have the option to stay at The Mountain from Sunday afternoon to noon on Monday. We’ll be the only group there, but there is another group that will be using the lodge arriving after lunch on Monday. You may sign up for the extra day when you register for the Spring Retreat. The price for the extra day includes meals. If fewer than 20 people sign up, you will receive a $20 refund and we’ll buy some groceries and prepare our own meals.  This extra day is not sponsored or supported by GSV.

Please don’t forget the Spring Silent Auction that benefits GSV’s Financial Assistance Program. It’s really simple: You bring items that you value but no longer need and buy the treasures that speak to your spirit that were brought by others. All of the proceeds allow those with limited financial resources to join us.

We are happy that Aric Rohner has agreed to join us in creating the Spring Retreat. Since hierarchy holds no charm for any of us, we are giving “convener” a rest and referring to ourselves as “co-creators.” If that is not hip enough for you, please think of us as “co-makers.”

Aric Rohner
Andy (Ann Dee) Foskey
Gary (Pleasure) Kaupman