Seriousness and Frivolity

“The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

We adults are so awfully serious.

Where did we learn it? We certainly weren’t serious when we were toddlers or mischievous teenagers. Where did it come from? Why?

What follows is my exploration into seriousness and its causes and effects.

What does it mean to take thing seriously?

According to www.Dictionary.com:

1. of, showing, or characterized by deep thought.

2. of grave or somber disposition, character, or manner: a serious occasion; a serious man.

Doesn’t really help does it. Well, I’m sure you know what it means already.

When did we first start taking things seriously?

I don’t know. And a rather rapid Google search returns nothing so I guess no one else does either.

My guess is that we took some things seriously because of the threat of extinction, i.e. “Don’t do that, you might hurt yourself!” or “Stop messing around or I’ll leave you here and I won’t come back.”

I remember once when I was playing in my mother’s bedroom and I accidentally jumped on her knee. I looked up at her with a gleeful grin, expecting her to smile and laugh along with me, and instead met the black gaze and angry bark of a terrifying, wounded giant.

From then on I wouldn’t be surprised if I learnt to take life seriously when I’m around her.

What do we take seriously?

We take our jobs, our relationships, our futures, our pasts, our possessions and ourselves seriously. Not all at the same time of course, and sometimes we forget about our shiny new shoes and jump in a puddle.

Does it serve us?

There seems to be a multitude of quotes by great people instructing us not to take life too seriously. It would be easy to say “well Dostoyevsky said it so come on people, lighten up!”, but I think more analysis is needed. We need to take our seriousness very seriously.

Seriousness serves us by allowing us to explore a subject, feeling, object or a way of life in depthWith depth comes meaning. And so seriousness can help us develop meaning in our lives.

Seriousness doesn’t serve us when we over-indulge in it, or take the wrong things seriously.

When we over-indulge in seriousness, we forget what it means to be light and free and dancing in the chaos of life. We can become heavy and slow and dulled and boring.

When we take the wrong things seriously, we can miss out on life altogether. We can concentrate on the highs of career achievement while ignoring our inner child’s pleas for fun and adventure.

“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the Gods made for fun.” – Alan Watts

There’s one thing that seems to speak for itself: those that choose not to take things so seriously all the time seem to just enjoy life more!

Action Steps

  • Speak gibberish all day.
  • Go and get shit-faced instead of reading that next self-development book
  • Twirl, twist, jump and gyrate your body around like a 4 year old in a soft-play area
  • Take the sacred things seriously and take yourself lightly
Further reading:
Refine The Mind: 9 Thinkers on Not Taking Existence too Seriously
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