“…as we await our blessed hope, the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…” Titus 2:13
Whatever happened to whistling? That’s right, whistling. Oh sure, once in a while you might catch someone whistling a bit, but for the most part you just don’t hear it anymore. I can’t account for it completely but I have some idea as to what has happened, and why it matters.
When my great-grandfather was serving his congregation in southwestern Minnesota at the opening of the twentieth century, events in Moscow, Bangkok or pretty much anywhere else in the far-flung world did not preoccupy him if he knew of them at all. The aches and pains of the world which did occupy him were mostly local, very close to home. There was an a kind of immediacy to life. The scale of life was manageable.
Now, over a century later, the aches and pains of the entire world are broadcast into our lives almost instantaneously. Media cultures around the world are rubbing our noses in every imaginable dysfunction, tragedy and outrage as they serve their current business model – the twenty four hour news cycle (that terribly bad idea drummed up by cable news). Predictably, the constant din of ill tidings has a sickening, dampening effect on just about everything, including humor. So, contemporary comedy becomes an exercise in jadedness, meaninglessness, vulgarity and cynicism. My argument is that whistling has become a casualty of the self-polluting of the contemporary human environment. It is a small symptom of a larger illness.
Whistling requires a light touch, an easy-going sense of humor, a certain hopefulness, optimism, feeling and belief that in spite of all its inconsistencies, life holds together and is headed somewhere. And that somewhere is good.
Can we have an authentic sense of humor, devoid of cynicism, in such a world? I think so. It is in the gap between what we are and what we ought to be where both tragedy and comedy dwell. The world is preoccupied with life in the gap but it has no real plan of extrication or proposition of hope that amounts to much of anything beyond vague, ill-defined notions of ‘progress’. The world desperately wants transformation but has no idea where to find it. It is hard to face living in the gap without trending toward cynicism, anger even despair. That, it seems to me, is the world’s perpetual problem.
Christians are also very much aware of the gap. We know the gap to be the result of our separation from God, one another and the creation. And it is our good confession that in Christ Jesus God has closed the gap between Himself and our sin. What this means for you as a Christian is that you can face the humorless disparities in yourself and the world – life in the gap – in the light of God’s reconciling grace. In the grace of Christ Jesus you are actually transformed and are now the possessor of a “blessed hope”. You know who you are and where you are going. And as you reflect on that hope and grace, and all the promise it holds because of Christ Jesus, it may put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. Why, who knows? It may even even get you to whistling once in a while!