In Les Miserables, Victor Hugo takes some time out from the drama to describe the Cistercian Sisters of Martin Verga’s observance (the order into whose Convent Providence leads Jean Valjean, though in the movie of the musical, the nuns are Vincentians). He notes that the nuns’
teeth are yellow. No tooth-brush ever entered that convent. Brushing one’s teeth is at the top of a ladder at whose bottom is the loss of one’s soul. (Hugo, Victor. Les Misérables [English language], p. 330. Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.)
A few hours after reading this quotation this afternoon, I took a bath. During and after that bath, I paid a little more attention to grooming myself than I normally would, especially considering I wasn’t going anywhere. I did so, in part, because I was trying to pray and hoping to extend my time of solitude with the Lord by taking a bit longer to my toilette. The overall chapters had inspired the extra effort at prayer, but I paused to consider whether it was ironic after reading that that I, who have made it one of my life’s principles to shun vanity as much as is humanly possible, should take this particular moment to pay attention to it.
Then, I had a second thought: perhaps I was just saving the undertakers some work.
And if that’s not gallows humor, I don’t know what is.