Where’s the whimsy?

Protruding from a brick wall, the giant, golden hand beckons me.

I am standing on the edge of Federal Hill Park in Baltimore, looking down into a park of the Inner Harbor I hadn’t seen before. And there is this hand.

Of course I have to see it up close. C’mon.

It turns out that it’s a part of a museum of odd, artistic curiosities. It seems like my kind of place, but I don’t have the time I need for such an exploration. So I wander around a bit outside, finding a bird made of elongated trumpet bells.

In an open hall, this elaborate pachyderm seems to be awaiting a crowd. Elefancy!

In all my years of drawing, nothing fits quite like whimsy. Perhaps not as quirky as this art, but close. When I traveled to elementary schools as a presenter, I did my fair share of odd illustrations, much to the delight of the kids.

Though, I suppose this piece, which I call Canterfurry Tales, is closer to the spirit of this museum.

I guess this is why I find it so hard to draw stories from the Bible. There is a decided shortfall of whimsy in Scripture. Sure, there’s irony – naming Sarah’s baby “Laughter” after her derisive guffaw. And God laughs at the plans of the wicked. But the humor is so often so serious. In fact, most of the Bible is so serious.

But then, do I really want whimsy in my Biblical narratives? Or silliness in my gospel stories? If I did, there’s always the extra-biblical “gospels” for that, where, for instance, the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (a whimsical name in itself) tells of dragons worshipping Jesus. (Though, that would have been way cool. C’mon.)

I’ll take Jesus the way Scripture portrays him: complex, compassionate, and anchored in real life. But I do strain to read between the lines to see the humor of the perfect man. The wordplay. The twinkle in the eye. The spontaneous, hearty laugh. I want more of this Jesus – far short of fatuous but the kind of man that “sinners” enjoyed so much.

On the outside of the museum is a mosaic. A giant spiral sparkles as it curls toward the roof, radiating bright tiles like thrown water droplets. Perhaps this is closer to the heart of the matter than whimsy, for it reminds me of joy: spiraling toward heaven, exalting, enjoying, leaving light in its wake.

Maybe joy is the wave in which all real humor rises.

And Scripture is brimming with joy.

Lord, catch us up in your joy. Help us to be be people of laughter and good humor, and at times, even whimsy. For life with you is a delight.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And if you liked this, please use the buttons above to share it!

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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