Bestselling spiritual writer Deepak Chopra begins this multileveled work with a parable about Mickey Fellows, a successful Los Angeles comedian whose father's death sets him on a path of spiritual seeking. He meets Francisco, a wise stranger whose riddles help Mickey uncover aspects of his own life and the true nature of reality that he has not considered before. One of the things the comedian needs to deal with is the predominant role of fear in all his doings. The riddle he receives from Francisco goes:

"Fear tells many lies but is always believed
If the worst happens, fear will be greatly relieved
On the day you were born fear poisoned your heart
Fear will still be there on the day you depart."

With the stranger's prodding, Mickey is forced to look at the way he uses humor as a hiding place and a protection against feelings of fear and insecurity. Encounters with his sister and ex-wife bring up more revelations about his character. Francisco tries to teach him about accepting grace, giving up enslavement to ego and addictions, and embracing the adventure of fearlessness. Mickey is a slow learner, just like the rest of us.

The foreword to this book is by Mike Myers, the comedian behind the recent film, The Love Guru, which features Deepak Chopra as a character in a minor but pivotal role. Myers salutes Chopra for attuning us to "the mindset of detachment, gratitude, and brave truth-seeking that fosters laughter and the inner peace that results." We were disappointed with the juvenile humor of The Love Guru given Myers' interest in spiritual matters. Most of the jokes told by Mickey Fellows in Why Is God Laughing? are dreadful but there is a reason for that.

Chopra concludes his parable with ten reasons to take the road of joy and spiritual optimism. Among them are:

• The healthiest response to life is laughter.
• You belong in the scheme of the universe and there's nothing to be afraid of.
• Ecstasy is the energy of the spirit.
• Obstacles are opportunities in disguise.
• Freedom is letting go.

In her wonderful book At Home in the World, Margaret Guenther writes:

"It was a happy day when I discovered that in the English of Chaucer's day — which was also the time of the Black Death — the word 'silly' meant 'blessed.' I am not sure when we strayed away from its original meaning, when blessedness took on a churchy aura and silliness became the realm of Monty Python and fourth-grade scatological humor. As hard-working adults we too often lose the gift for letting go, for delight in simply being. We persuade ourselves that every moment must be lived productively; like the busy little bee, we feel a holy obligation to improve each shining hour. We would do well to take very small children or big silly dogs as our teachers."

As the film The Love Guru and the book Why Is God Laughing? both prove: it is not easy to make the connection between silly and blessed credible and poignant. In these terrible times of war, unemployment, and helplessness, more spiritual writers and filmmakers need to explore this lively connection. By bringing it to life on the screen or the written page, they stir us to a deeper and more abiding delight in simply being.