The Order of Celestial Laughter


The Order of Celestial Laughter comprises individuals selected for the rare capacity to laugh at themselves. Celestial laughter expresses compassionate and tolerant amusement. It is the gentle laughter of the universe at one of its most entertaining slapstick creations, namely human beings. Members of the Order recognize themselves among the objects of celestial laughter, and also have the ability to partake in it. Thus celestial laughter is always directed at oneself at the very least. Laughter directed exclusively at others is by definition not celestial.

Celestial laughter has nothing to do with the laughter of ridicule, mockery, scorn or contempt, all of which stem from anger or self-hatred. Nor does it manifest self-abasement or buffoonery. It is kind rather than cruel. Celestial laughter at oneself may manifest self-deprecation because this bespeaks humility and self-respect. But it presupposes disinterested regard – the appreciation of, concern for, and consideration of an individual independent of any personal attachment to or dependence on that individual. Members of the Order recognize their own objective worth independent of the actions that define them; and that celestial laughter at one’s actions does not threaten the objective worth of the laugher.

Celestial laughter is also different from the grin of self-satisfaction or the smirk of self-congratulation. Because the foundation of celestial laughter is disinterested concern, appreciation and consideration, the fulfillment of an individual interest in satisfaction or congratulation cannot occasion celestial laughter. However, having such an interest itself may do so. More generally, motives that advance the pathetic cravings of the ego provide rich sources of celestial amusement. Celestial laughter expresses indulgent condescension toward those motives. It is the attitude of a bemused but concerned parent toward a wayward child. Members of the Order take that attitude toward themselves.

Celestial laughter is to be distinguished from conscience, although the two may be related in some cases. Whereas conscience holds one to a principle of conduct and condemns a violation of it, celestial laughter expresses compassion for that violation and finds the humor in it, provided that there is humor there to be found. It does not excuse such a violation. But it makes the burden of accountability for it easier to bear. Thus conscience sometimes identifies occasions for celestial laughter. But other objects of celestial laughter do not necessarily violate principles of conduct. They may be independently comical in themselves.

This CREDO does not identify necessary and sufficient conditions for celestial laughter. Rather, it offers criteria for identifying potential members of the Order. Membership is secret and by invitation only.