Heavenly Humor

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.

~Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein’s idea of God feels just about right. It transcends dogma and denominations. It’s free of prescription, proscription, and judgement. It ascribes anthropomorphic traits not at all. (I presume you’ll cut Professor Einstein some slack for the masculine pronoun, himself, since he pre-dated political correctness.) It does, however, seem to be lacking one characteristic — a sense of humor.

I’ve always contended people who don’t think God has a sense of humor have never been in an airport.

I’m one of the few people I know who can remain untroubled by flight delays: They give me more uninterrupted time to observe the innumerable manifestations of God’s enjoyment of laughter.

Especially during the coronavirus pandemic, we should be grateful for and mindful of the fact that God’s generosity is as boundless as his sense of humor. Yes. Generosity. Since so few of us are able or want to frequent airports for the time being, look what God’s done. He’s given us masks. Think about that.

Behind the Mask

We can look at masks in two ways, each of them plausible, both of them arguably humorous:

  1. In the real world, that ostensible reality in which we all lived prior to COVID-19, we all wore figurative masks. We hid behind them to conceal our emotions, our insecurities, and our agendas. We used them as shorthand for our personal and professional identities. We wore them like badges to signify our importance — or to disguise our self-perceived lacks thereof.
  2. In this world, the one we inhabit now in the grim presence of COVID-19, we all wear real masks. We don’t wear them to hide behind or from anything. They conceal nothing. They signify nothing, personal or professional, except for our conscientious courtesy. We wear them to protect others, lest we be infected but unaware. They’re the great levelers. They make us equal — equally vulnerable, equally susceptible, equally responsible for each other. They are us, undisguised.

In the context of Albert Einstein’s definition, maybe the ironic peculiarities of masks constitute slight details. They surely indicate the presence of a superior reasoning power. And maybe they’re intended to point out nothing more than the fact we’re incomprehensible elements in the incomprehensible universe.

But with God’s help, we can at least laugh at ourselves.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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  1. Joy, humor and laughter do not lie outside the life of the believer, but rather occupy the center of it. Which is exactly what Pope Francis wrote in 2018 in his apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate: “The saint is capable of living with joy and a sense of humor. Without losing realism, enlighten others with a positive and hopeful spirit »

    • Wow. “Without losing realism.” I’m always afraid realism will end up on the list of dying arts alongside empiricism and common sense, Aldo. I’m so grateful to know I’m not alone in my faith that we may restore them, after all.

      Thank you.

  2. Masks. And now you can get them to reflect your favorite sports team. If you have a favorite sports team.

    As my dad used to say, “Somebody can always make a buck from someone else’s misfortune.”

    Mark, I appreciate you including Einstein’s definition of God, a concept I’ve struggled with on and off my entire life. But when you/he put it this way – “incomprehensible universe” – I have to nod and say “Of course!”

    Time for me to put the mask du jour on and walk around the block.

    • Jeff, I spoke with my son, Sean, yesterday. He and his family live in Raleigh and are huge fans of the Carolina Hurricanes. When Sean tried to order masks for the four of them, they were sold out. So, he settled for the Hartford Whalers, which is what the team was before its move south.

      I’ve struggled with my own definition of God, especially after — as a 28-year-old ostensible Irish Catholic who’d struggled with his faith since childhood — I was introduced to Joseph Campbell. I ended up being comforted by the notion that if all peoples, across all time, culture, and geography, had explained themselves and their being in the world by the fundamentally same story, there had to be SOMETHING going on. Einstein’s definition fit the bill.

      I hope you didn’t encounter anything terribly incomprehensible during your masked walk.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Mark, Albert Einstein few people know was influenced by Torah! His biggest fears were that his family would not make it out of Germany before the cursed Nazis could capture them. I would not pretend to know if G-d has a sense of humor or not nor would I make a statement like that. Humor is a great medicine wherever it can be found. Let us hope and pray this is all over soon. Thank you, Mark, for sharing your article. I hope you are safe and well.

    • I did not know those things about Albert Einstein, Joel. Thank you for telling me. If you’re ever up for a relatively light, quirky, and amusing read, I recommend this book:

      It’s a true story. I consider it to be a latter-day version of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

      Thank you for your comments, my friend. I hope you, too, are safe and healthy.

    • Mark, you probably would not believe how long it has been since I read a book. The last book I read was Death Of A Rebel which was a book written by Mac Elliott about the sad tragic life of singer, songwriter, activist who was and is my favorite folksinger. Phil like so many in his genre wrote many humorous songs. For years I never really knew anything about Albert Einstein except for his Theory Of Relativity which I still have no clue about. The only other thing I knew was that Albert Einstein was the name of a research hospital in the Bronx where my father (of blessed memory) did a lot of work for different doctors. It wasn’t until much later in life I found out about the other part of him which very few people knew about. Yes, my wife and I are safe and well. Due to various symptoms, I was tested at home last Sunday for the Coronavirus. On Wednesday I got the news that I had tested negative. To me, that was a true gift from G-d. I hope Mark you will keep writing.

    • Thank you, Darlene. I couldn’t agree more. And if we don’t or can’t laugh at ourselves, we’re squandering God’s generosity. I’m so happy you appreciated this piece.