Monday, 2 October 2017

Growing Joy: Humour at the Dandelion Community (Also Chicken Man Begins!)

Humour, Vanity and Joy

I remember thinking once, when I was a youth, that I didn't want to be funny because that would only show that I liked it when others liked me.  I had just started reading C.S. Lewis, and remembered that C.S. Lewis condemned vanity as a vice.  And so, I resolved, there was no good reason for me to be funny.

I think probably, though, I was deceiving myself.  For why else did I not account for the fact that joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and that perhaps good humour might serve the cause of joy?  C.S. Lewis had also said that vanity not as bad as the harder, more self-centred type of pride which makes one not care what others think and feel at all.  I should have realized that humour could be used in the service of joy as a way to care about others.

I also did not see the connection between humour and honesty which I do now.  I have discovered that I am an odd enough person to sometimes make people laugh by doing nothing else than expressing myself honestly.  Maybe humour of this sort presupposes a sort of perspective on yourself that is at odds with vanity.  It is precisely not caring to hide the odd, funny bits about yourself in which this type of humour lies.

Humour at the Dandelion Community

In any case, the reason I am writing this post is because my time at the Dandelion Community, and South Korea in general, has been full of this kind of good, honest humour.  I hope Dante and Mina will not mind me saying that they are odd enough to be funny without trying.  And it has filled our community with one another with joy.

I admit that when I first heard, by email, that the YAMENer I would be staying with was a "comedian," I had my doubts.  Maybe it was the harder type of pride that led me to assume that Dante would be the kind of guy who had come to call himself a comedian because he thought he was funnier than he really was.

But, by God's mercy, Dante is not such a person.  He is a real comedian, and he is really funny.

As evidence, I would like to share this video with you, which Dante made a few days ago.

A Story or Two

Unfortunately, many of the jokes Dante, Mina and I share are such that I cannot write them down for you here without risking expulsion from the Mennonite Central Committee.

However, I think I would be willing to undergo the risk of sharing a story or two.

Many of you will know how important respecting your elders is in Korean culture.  And you must believe me that I have endeavored to do my best in this regard.  I am quick to give up my seat when an older person gets on the city bus.  I bow and say "Anyeonghaseyo?" to our elderly neighbors as they look doubtfully at me from their roadside fields.  When I'm called upon, I help out the little old ladies who all pile onto the morning bus, dragging their farm pickings along with them to sell in the town.

However, I must confess that the cultural adjustment has not always gone so smoothly.

Only last week, for example, I found myself giving my Korean teacher a piggyback around the YWCA concert hall, to the, may I say, excessive merriment of all the Southeast Asian women who also study Korean with us.  In fairness, though, in this case, it was not my fault.  I did not choose of my own accord to parade my Seonsengnim around in front of the whole school.  I would not have chosen of my own free will to introduce Canadian culture to Korea in the style of the half-time show at the Calgary Stampede.  No, the Koreans at the YWCA conceived of this display all on their own.  And, may I say, it was a punishment the likes of which gave me flashbacks to fourth grade, when I was made to sing the Canadian national anthem in front of the class sitting on Mrs. Hutchingson's lap.

Then there was that time, about two weeks ago, when a student's parent gave me an apple.  I sat down and took a break from splitting wood, and then tossed the apple core over the embankment.  Three minutes later, the generous parent returned with my apple core.  He was acting out the scene, quite dramatically I must say, of how the apple core had fallen from the sky and hit him on the head.

I wish I could say that was the last of it, but no.  There is something I did not confess to you about my adventures during my first week in Korea.  If you remember, I related how I had spent a beautiful, romantic night watching Korean musical performances at the historic site where Korean alphabet was invented.  The romance of the night was only increased as sporadic downpours made us open and close our umbrellas as we watched.

I did not relate, however, how the mystique of that night was somewhat punctured by a certain incident.  I confess that I neglected to mention how, after one such downpour, I had raised my umbrella up ever so carefully, so as to avoid hitting anyone as I collapsed it; how, by so carefully raising up my umbrella, in order to not disturb the romance of the night with even the slightest indiscretion, I proceeded, with a release of the umbrella's extraordinarily high-powered springs, to ever so carefully dump all its watery contents directly upon the elderly gentlemen sitting in front of me.

Yes, I confess to you now that MCC chose such a one as most fit to enter Korean culture and represent them.

I know I take a great risk in relating these stories to you.  But I think honesty and good humour demand it.  Yes, these stories are full of good humour, and I confess that the lion's share of it belongs to the Koreans I met over the past month and a half, for which I am certainly thankful!


  1. This is hilarious; I literally laughed aloud at these stories. Thanks for sharing! - Bekah Puddington

  2. So funny! I really needed a good laugh �� thanks for sharing