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Zen and the Art of Humor 

Wednesday, Feb 23 2011
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One of our biggest problems with organized religion – and we're sure we're not alone on this – is its pervasive humorlessness. To our knowledge (and we'll admit that it's not that extensive), nowhere in any of the holy books has a messiah gone around encouraging followers to laugh at themselves as a way to understand and cope with a big, confusing universe. Rather, a pre-emptive and lethal defensiveness has pervaded. (See: the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, suicide bombings – need we go on?) Clowning Your Zen, however, is where spirituality and humor coexist. One of our favorite performers, Moshe Cohen, joins Zen master Bernie Glassman to help people “dig into their own ridiculousness and absurdity” and use humor as a means of self-exploration and (OK, here comes a California moment) healing. Cohen has 30 years of experience in this realm. He founded Clowns Without Borders, a group that brings performance into crisis scenarios such as refugee camps and natural disasters as a way to help people deal with the trauma. Glassman is a leader in Western Buddhism who founded Zen Peacemakers, and he has long advocated social engagement as a way to manifest one's spiritual practice. Cohen says that when most Americans think of clowns, they think of Bozo or Ronald McDonald. But Cohen more resembles Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton, who were masters of a more traditional form of clowning. Humor, Cohen says, “opens pathways to communication allowing people to feel better about themselves, and it can change how they view the world and others around them.” Tonight's opening session is a lower-cost alternative to the full workshop, which runs through Sunday.

The full workshop is $200-$250.
Fri., March 4, 7:30 p.m., 2011

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Keith Bowers

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