Laughable Life

The Weather Vane
September 26, 2002
by Noelle Selb
Staff Writer    

Dubbed the "humor consultant," Dr. Jep Hostetler led chapel and gave a seminar on
"Helpful Humor: Science of Myth" in the Suter Science Center. Blending humor and
serious topics through the use of personal stories, Hostetler kept the chapel audience
awake with his engaging talk on "The Joy Factor."

His speech consisted of six points: people of joy understand that life is a gift, they
understand that life is sacred, life is difficult, life is short, life is funny and life is a
spiritual journey.

Though his mother disapproves, Hostetler incorporates magic into his work. Hostetler
illustrate his points.

Hostetler emphasized the preciousness of life. He described how his father, who had a
passion for life, was suddenly paralyzed one day and had to work at physical therapy
in order to get his nerves back into shape. With perseverance and rigorous therapy,
Hostetler's father later regained full use of his body.

Said Hostetler, "when you woke up this morning, you didn't pay for it . . . but your heart
is beating."

In the Science Center that afternoon, Hostetler again had a full house for his more
medically related seminar. His teaching took a look at how to show others the seven
elements of the "humor umbrella," which touches on ideas such as playfulness and
laughter to heal or encourage those who need it.

"Humor and laughter are serious . . . in terms of healing," said Hostetler, adding, "I
believe that each of us have the capacity to be healers. But we are not curers." After
being an anatomist for almost 15 years, Hostetler got involved with a drug and alcohol
abuse program.

"Halfway through my career, once I became an associate professor . . . I had the
freedom to do what I wanted to do," Hostetler replied when asked why he delivers his
encouraging speeches. Now an associate professor emeritus of preventive medicine at
Ohio State University College of Medicine, he visits colleges and companies to tell
them about joy.

"I like Mennonite colleges," said Hostetler. "I love the Mennonite church. And I think the
Mennonite church right now is wounded. And I want to do anything I can to bring a
touch of joy. I think we need to be kind to each other."

Since he has started speaking for audiences, Hostetler's view has changed. "I just love
to be with the audience. It's not a performance anymore. It used to be . . . but that's
gone. It's a matter of 'do I have something to say?' But you hope that you help people
see it in a different light. Truly, just hold it up and turn it just a little bit, and give them
permission to be a little more lighthearted because I really believe that Christians
should be joyful."

"It's part of my Christian testimony," said Hostetler. "I go into corporations, I do the
spirituality thing, and I get to do that because I know I give myself permission. That's
who I am."

Campus Pastor Byron Peachey believes it was good for Hostetler to come to EMU
because "a lot of Mennonites have a good sense of humor." He thought Hostetler
placed a good emphasis on accepting people for who they are.

First-year student Connie Steiner enjoyed the chapel service because "it was a
change of pace, humorous, and kept your attention well. It gave us some good things
to think about."
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