Humor

One of the most important pioneer families in the Fort Worth / Dallas area ws the Dobbins family. While Nancy (the mother of the community) passed away a number of years ago, Gordon (whose grandfather was brought into the Faith by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá back in 1912) was with us until just a few months ago.

For decades their home was the main gathering spot in Fort Worth and literally scores of people became Bahá’ís in their home. This included dozens of youth, such as myself.

One evening Gordon was giving a fireside, during which he spoke of the suffering of Bahá’u’lláh, including His near fatal imprisonment in the siyyah chal ("black pit") of Tehran. Afterwards I, a young Bahá’í, was eager to hear more, so he sat down and told me a story.

Gordon was a very tall and physically imposing figure who had an IQ that was off the scale and he spoke in careful, measured tones. I settled in, ready to hear something truly enlightening and fascinating.

He began by describing how the Bahá’ís (then known as Bábís) would try to keep their spirits up, despite being chained to the floor of what was essentially a pitch black sewer. They would recite prayers and sing and it would be a great comfort, even after Bahá’u’lláh was taken away and banished to Baghdad.

According to Gordon, they would also tell jokes. Unfortunately they didn't know very many, so they kept telling the same jokes over and over. After a while this became somewhat tedious, so they decided to simply give each joke a number. When someone would call out a number, the others would remember the joke and laugh.

One day a new fellow was brought down into the pit. The others would sing and recite prayers, but then at one point someone said, "Fourteen!" and everyone laughed hysterically. This continued day after day: Every once in a while someone would call out, "Three!" or "eleven!" or some other number and they would laugh and laugh. The new guy didn't understand any of this, but he wanted to be sociable, so after a lengthy period of silence he called out, "One hundred and seven!"

At first there was silence, but then one prisoner laughed and then another, and before long everyone was laughing so hard they could barely breathe. It took several minutes before everyone recovered their composure.

After this display, the fellow finally gives up. "Alright," he says, "What on earth is so funny?"

The prisoner next to him smiled and said, "We have never heard that one before."

And that, delivered via the measured tones and from the stony visage of Gordon Dobbins, was my first informal introduction to Bahá’í history.

Trey Yancy on Facebook

There is a note in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's character that has not been emphasized, and with which no idea of him is complete. The impressive dignity which distinguishes his presence and bearing is occasionally lighted by a delicate and tactful humour, which is as unaffected as it is infectious and delightful. On his last afternoon in London, a reporter called to ask him of his future plans, finding him surrounded by a number of friends who had called to bid him good-bye. When, in answer to this query, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told in perfect English of his intention to visit Paris and go from there to Alexandria, the press representative evinced surprise at his faultless pronunciation. Thereupon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá proceeded to march with a free stride up and down the flower-scented drawing room, his Oriental garb contrasting strangely  111  with his modern surroundings; and, to the amusement of the assembly, uttered a string of elaborate English words, laughingly ending, "Very difficult English words I speak!" Then, a moment later, with the swift transition of one who knows both how to be grave and gay, he showed himself terribly in earnest.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 109

A young single-taxer began to question Him. “What message shall I take to my friends?” he ended.

“Tell them,” laughed the Master (that wonderful spicy humour in His face) “to come into the Kingdom of God. There they will find plenty of land and there are no taxes on it.”

Diary of Juliet Thompson, 13 April, 1912

Although ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was a serious expounder of the Bahá’í Faith He had a fine sense of humor. One day at dinner, we were eating soup, a nice thick soup. Leaving my spoon in the plate I raised my hand to adjust my collar. As I brought down my hand my elbow came in contact with the handle of the spoon. And soup was spread upon the whiskers of the Persian believer on my right. Of course, I was terribly embarrassed. However, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, observing the incident quickly said: “Do not worry. That is a blessing” and laughed aloud. My brother Wendell, then remarked: “Who gets the blessing, Bill, you or the friend with the whiskers?” And ‘Abdu’l-Bahá laughed again. Wendell and I were so glad to be with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. At some times we were quite jolly. We were mere boys of 18 and 21.

Excerpt from the transcript of a talk given by William Copeland Dodge relating the account of his pilgrimage to ‘Akka in 1901

Foolishly I said, "O, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, I came 3000 miles to see you." He gave a good hearty laugh – you know what a wonderful laugh He had . . . And He said, "I came 8000 miles to see you."

Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 81

He put His two thumbs to my eyes while He wiped the tears from my face; admonishing me not to cry, that one must always be happy. And He laughed. Such a ringing, boyish laugh. It was as though He had discovered the most delightful joke imaginable: a divine joke which only He could appreciate.

Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 32