Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” I remember this because it was on a t-shirt I wore in high school. I probably got it in Austin.
It is easy to live out the wisdom of my elders as an accessory, or through the witness of reposting a meme. I hold to these profound, unachievable blurbs, glad that someone is saying them, and assuming they are getting it right. There is some smart, serious, sinless person out there who is really doing it. Hooray, us!
I remember first seeing Tutu on video. Surely Tutu, this bold apartheid fighter, would be fiery and uncompromising. But here he was, delightful, alternating between wonder and hilarity. No joke: there’s a video on Youtube called “Desmond Tutu Can’t Stop Laughing.” He seemed irreverent. He seemed uninhibited. It was liberating.
To be sure, the man can preach at abusive power, but the man really loves people. He really enjoys knowing people, and being human.
Tutu’s joy is not in spite of all he’s seen. In The Book of Joy, Tutu says,
Discovering more joy does not, I’m sorry to say…save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily, too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken
Tutu’s joy does not deny sorrow, but it has no fear of it. My sorrow and my joy root me fully in the range of all our God’s-image-ness, of all God image-ined us for being. Brother Jesus lived these extremes so vibrantly. The hardship and hilarity of our humanity is bound up in his. The Spirit of God – grieved, groaning, and growing us – makes joy.
“Laughter is carbonated holiness,” says Anne Lamott. The archbishop in stitches is really doing it. We can only be human together. What a delight.