The enemy set the trap and I fell right into it. Many serious thinkers do.
As a father, artist, pastor, business owner, philosopher and so on, I’m always thinking, and too often, I wear my inside “serious” self on the outside like a badge of honor. “Hey everybody, I’m a serious person, so watch out!” Or for whatever dopey reason. Yes, sometimes you’re just in a serious mood or you really are in a moment of intense need of focus and action. That’s OK. I’m talking about the perpetual state of the seriousness self that manifests itself in depression, anger or general unpleasantness.
My issue, and I believe this is a universal one, is that my serious side defines me in so many ways. It really is a part of who I am. Also, it’s always pointing a finger at my lighter side (the more fun side). It’s always scrutinizing every little detail, as it ought to. But it shouldn’t do so to the point where it takes full control of the self. Simply put, I forgot how to have fun. And let me tell you, I’m a fun guy. Funny too. But I forgot who that person was (or is). It’s very sad and has cost me dearly.
I spent so much time wanting others to take me and my work seriously that I negated my lighter self for fear that it would impede the perception of me as a professional. This permeated into my private life and made those around me think many awful things about me. I became an asshole. Critical of everything (including myself), and no one can be around that 24/7. Being serious, for me, was like towing the line for humanity. Everyone is too busy having fun, so I’d be the serious one to tackle the issues and slay the dragon. (Whatever)
Are the issues of humanity and the fate of the earth the most pressing issues? Yes. Should I devote myself and my work to assisting in the fight against evil? Yes. Should I do what I can to assist others in the development of their spiritual selves? Yes. Should I grow as an artist and push myself to excellence? Yes. And should you? Yes, in whatever areas you choose.
So, why is it so difficult to balance the light with the heavy? Practice, perhaps. Perspective? I think it’s psychologically deeper than that. Guilt? Suffering? God made us complicated beings, sophisticated, yet flawed. We’re capable of amazing things, yet oftentimes, we struggle with the basics. Deep diving into this, after having lost too much already, I think I’m starting to get it.
It’s OK to have fun, even a lot of fun. It’s OK to laugh. Joke around. Get silly. Play.
True, our society has a plague whereby we are lacking in seriousness. We don’t value serious thought. Forget about getting into philosophy. Yuck! We want dopey cat videos and dumb reality TV. We want to get wrecked on Friday’s and laugh about it on Saturday’s. Escapism is the drug we’re all addicted too.
It hurts, really hurts inside our core, to think about the serious stuff. Most people can’t handle it and leave it to the professionals to do the heavy lifting for us. We want to stay in The Matrix to eat, drink and be merry, as often as possible. But I don’t want to be in The Matrix, that is, blinded by pleasure. Thinking in real terms, I can’t and won’t turn a blind eye to the reality of it all. I chose to see, and now I cannot not see.
So, the dilemma is can one still have fun with all this serious stuff causing chaos in the mind? It’s not whether you can or cannot. Of course, you can. The question is will you give yourself permission and allow yourself to “lighten up”?
In my thirties (I’m currently in my fifties) my girlfriend at the time insisted that I go see a therapist for anger management. I was angry at the world for its injustice, angry for my personal struggles, blah blah blah. It’s a family trait (don’t ask). So, I did.
In therapy I had this woman who was extremely smart and professional. I went in like an artist and thinker, a punk who needed to grow up. I was preposterously defensive. (It’s hysterical looking back at yourself).
She seemed very disinterested in my pathetic self-pity. After some time of talking about myself, I suddenly came to a very profound conclusion that popped into my head, I was afraid. Holy Shit! I didn’t want to be fixed! I liked who I was. I liked my serious nature. It defined me. I also knew very well that it was the source of my creativity and gave it it’s excellence. I didn’t want a lobotomy or drug or philosophy to override it and make me see the world, as I described it then as, all “fuzzy bunnies”.
She closed her book (literally) and spoke. She told me I was too smart for therapy and didn’t need it (her words). I was astute, smart and emotionally intelligent. After just one session, she said she wouldn’t be seeing me again. She said I didn’t need to understand myself, I got that down. I needed Behavior Modification to learn how to rewire my emotional responses.
She explained, it’s OK to think, see and feel, even when it’s serious or negative. The trick is to not allow that to take you out. We all need to modify our responses to it. Don’t become indifferent or aloof, just balance it all and control the outcome to live in state that fosters well-being.
Anger is the enemy’s game. He will use it to your disadvantage.
Many professionals, like first responders, soldiers, peace workers, social workers, and so many more, are engaged in work that would take most of us out. Heck, I’m just an artist and pastor who thinks and works too much. They’re on the front line. Imagine how difficult it must be for them. But to be fair, we all have a dose of it in some measure.
Hold a second, I’m supposed to be writing about spiritual development and matters of God. What does all this have to do with that? Well, did you ever see a laughing Buddha? The Buddha understood clearly the suffering of the world. Exploring and understanding suffering was part of his journey into enlightenment. He discovered the nature of laughter as a remedy for suffering. Jesus clearly knew the suffering of man and took it all on himself in one of the most beautiful events in the history of humankind. He chose to love above all, even in his own suffering. His love could not be broken. That was the true victory over the enemy.
Being a spiritual being is very serious stuff. It takes discipline and continuous effort. But it’s worth all the work. You will experience new levels of existence you couldn’t otherwise.
Here’s the wisdom, and the part I’m only getting to understand now, being only serious will actually hinder your spiritual development. I do not subscribe to monastic life as the only way to salvation or enlightenment. No. That is incorrect. Flogging ourselves as “sinners” and believing that we are born into damnation as the starting point for our spiritual journey, with the life goal of turning that fate around, is a gross misunderstanding that has lasted for far too long.
We are not meant to suffer. We are not born sinners. We become sinful, but our mistakes and improper living. What is sin? It’s not a thing inside of us. Sin is better described as acting inappropriately, however small or large that behavior is. Anger is sin. Negativity is sin. And so on.
The world is hurting, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t laugh and play, while also helping to make it a better place. Do the right thing, brothers and sisters? Be kind. Love each other. Help each other. Be mindful of God and give thanks for your blessings.
For me, for the first time in my life, I’m gonna give myself permission to…
Be happy. Smile. Play. Robert, It’s OK.