Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ironic Levity

“If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.”

- Oscar Wilde

What a funny statement of itself –ironic I think. Here Wilde attempts to teach us a simple truth by making us laugh. Surely, however, one would not be martyred for telling a true statement devoid of levity; however, dislike and unpopularity would surround the persistent truth teller.

Wilde’s statement has a couple of important points to it. First, “If you want to tell people the truth…” I have spent a good portion of my life fibbing to people –no lie. I find it entertaining to mess with people. Often, when asked a simple question like, “Where did you get those new shoes?” I might quickly reply, “Oh, I stole them from the store.” I find that I do this more with unnecessary questions.

I have a field day with this when in company of my mother in law. She is always asking questions; namely questions I don’t feel are relevant to anything at all or just to prompt small-talk. To entertain myself I’ll just lie in response to her question. My responses, as shown above, are often so ridiculous and shocking that the untruth is easily spotted, but it keeps me happy and humorous.

The second piece of Wilde’s statement is for the truth tellers out there. There have been times when I feel that someone’s actions are outside of social acceptability. I had this companion (isn’t that how the best stories begin?) who was less than moderate in many of his ideals. I recall a “Bible bash” he had with some random dude on the streets of Sunnyvale, California. As we were riding away, this Elder said, “I’m going to add that guy to my list of people to dust my feet off against!” How absurd. To keep myself from going crazy, I had to say something. So at this time I developed an interesting way to offer correction without being killed by this kid.

As I learned about this Elder’s life, I found that he had had a rough time. All through high school he was ridiculed heavily for being a member of the church. He was used to this opposition and readily accepted a fight. So for me to oppose or ridicule his behavior was wholly ineffective. So, I would just make him laugh while I got my point across by going to the extreme with his ideas. For example, he once said, “I hate gays and liberals,” I replied, “Yeah, we should petition the government for a mass genocide.” He would laugh and realize how extreme he was being and chill out. By proud report, he named me his 2nd favorite companion.

I suppose that there is a third point here made by Wilde. He intimates that if one can make a person laugh while telling the truth, one will not be killed by that person. Is this a truth we can rely on? According to the audio series, “Joseph Smith: Lessons and Insights” by Mark L. McConkie, the prophet was quite the funny man. Even the Prophet himself, in his own account, admits to being “guilty of levity” (Joseph Smith –History 1:28). What became of Joseph?

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