This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God. The previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 55th step:
(55) Not to love much boisterous laughter.
Written in the context of rules for monastic living this one is easily understood by anyone who has ever visited a good monastery. There is an atmosphere of silence that permeates the monastic environment and loud boisterous laughter would destroy such an atmosphere.
The maxim is not to “love much” explosive laughter. Again there is no prohibition against humor here but rather there is a caution of making a show of it. If one has ever been around someone who regularly explodes with loud laughter there is something rather unsettling about it–making one wonder about the sanity of the individual displaying it.
Loudness of any sort displays an excessive ego, “look at me I’m laughing.” A good laugh is good for everyone, but the one who explodes in laughter is someone who is overdoing it. Parents often have to caution their children against this, it is even more embarrassing in an adult.
The obvious fault with this type of loudness is that it intrudes upon the space of those outside our immediate circle. The joy that we feel and those we are speaking to may share may not be shared by those who are loud laughter will inflict itself upon at a distance.
To not love explosive laughter can save us from much embarrassment and also preserve the decorum of respect of the people we live with.
There are those who will think that this injunction is not in keeping with the New Testament but read what the Letter of James says: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you,” (James 4:7-10).
The genius of the maxims of St. Benedict is that they embrace all of Scripture, while most of us choose to only exchange a handshake with the word of God.
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