What with one thing and another, I forgot to tag anything for the links dump yesterday, which means no links dump this morning. But that’s all right, because Fred Clark’s post about humorless prigs deserves a more prominent link. The proximate cause is yet another story about a crazy religious group working themselves into a tizzy over what turns out to be an online parody. This by itself is unremarkable– as Fred says, “So in other words, it’s a weekday.”
What’s notable about the post is the bit that comes next, though:
We’ve previously discussed how an addiction to self-righteous indignation and smug superiority creates an endless, self-reinforcing vicious cycle (literally vicious) of the sins of pride and of bearing false witness. And we’ve discussed the crippling effects this has on the functional intelligence of those trapped in this cycle of smug. But encountering this umpteenth example of the IndigNation’s inability to recognize or appreciate jokes, I realized we hadn’t yet dealt with this aspect of the self-righteousness trap.
Smugness and the sin of pride makes you humorless. It reduces your capacity for recognizing humor, your ability to get jokes. And it almost totally eliminates your capacity for contributing humor, your ability to make jokes.
I realize that in the grand scheme of things, this may seem like a less important consequence than the soul-corroding evil or the harm done to others or the self-destructive abandonment of critical thinking. But joy matters. Cutting oneself off from humor isn’t good for you. It’s a way of cutting yourself off from redemption — from the gaiety transfiguring all this dread.
This is a great point. and, what’s more, while Fred is writing specifically about religious smugness and pride, this is a non-sectarian point. Excessive pride and obsession with any ideal– religious, scientific, political, or cultural– leads to a loss of humor, and humor matters. You need to be able to take a break from saving the world (and congratulating yourself for doing so) to laugh at the world, otherwise it’s not worth the saving.