A fact: We’re here for a short time. Truth is, I’ve spoken of this at some length, the brevity of our lives, the tiny blink we occupy. The older I get, the more I realize the absolute futility of taking this time seriously. Another truth: I’ve never had a problem with this, always being rather jesterish (not a word) ever since youth, getting in plenty of trouble along the way, but still, truth is truth whether or not it comes easy. As I have navigated my way down the many crooked paths that lead me to this day, this Signal Fire, the overwhelming authenticity of what I’m trying to say today is clear: When taken seriously, life dissolves away.
This year has been a year that has illuminated this fact in a billion ways, as I am not sure there has ever been a more trying, terrifying, and altogether dreadfully serious year as 2020, and hell, into 2021. We’ve been tested, we’ve been isolated, we’ve been quarantined, we’ve been on pins and needles hoping that those we love and care for stay safe. All this seriousness, all this heavy gravity that’s been a black hole of the life we’ve been living, is sucking us in, and it’s dissolving the life of our lives away.
As we age, we’re thrown into this misconception that being really damn serious will equate to being really damn successful. We believe that if we can shed our childlike innocence like snakeskin, if we can step forward with an aloof confidence, all the material and financial fruits will find their way to us. We tell ourselves this is enough, that if our bank accounts are full, our garages stocked with shiny automobiles and toys, our social media accounts chockablock with exotic vacations to far flung locales, we are happy, we have arrived. My goodness, what a travesty, this. An exercise, albeit brief: Ask yourself, and answer truthfully, when was the last time you were silly? Truly silly. When was the last time you lost yourself in play, the last time you forgot what embarrassment looked like? Now, ask yourself this: When was the last time you felt truly happy?
I know this year has been a bastard, I know it’s been so trying and exhausting and pretty worthless, but in a lot of ways it’s shown me a lot of truth that perhaps had been ignored too long. It showed me the value of a simple life, but it showed me the value of a silly one, too. In no way do I think the way forward is to ignore all the actually serious stuff that pops up into our lives, I think true maturity is knowing the difference between these different times in our life, but I do think the balance has been off, the scales unfairly tipped. We’re 90% serious now, some more, and it’s just too bad in my humblest of humble opinions. The benefits do not outweigh the costs here, as a planet we’re sicker than we’ve been, we’re more depressed, we divorce more often, we take more pills to chase that elusive peace. In this race towards some strange metric of success, of social approval and integration, we’ve become stiff lipped and emotionally sequestered. What if tearing these walls down opened us up to a hell of a lot more joy, and our definition of success shifted? What if laughter, if quality conversations, if time spent in nature, if quiet and calm became our measures of success, what if silliness and being open to that childlike fascination with this place is the route forward?
I don’t know, maybe I’m way off base and long dead Greek philosophers are rolling in their sandy graves right now, maybe Stoicism is the only path to righteousness of some kind, but I don’t think so. I think we’re so busy thinking everything is such an emergency, we’re missing an entire lifetime of moments that are right in front of our noses. Maybe, just maybe, take a week or so and practice this, truly give yourself over to a little bit more lightness in your days, in your heart, and see what happens. After all, after the year we’ve all been through,
What do we have to lose?
I have discovered
that taken seriously,
life dissolves away.
Haiku on Life by Tyler Knott Gregson
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