In Chapter 13 of Augustus Finds Serenity, the sage Takygulpa Rinpoche has been asked to give advice to a religious community. Among other things he tells the assembled throng:
“Do not take life too seriously. The glue that holds our communities together best is made from shared joy and good humour. Just as we are mindful of their hurts, be happy for the success of others as well. Above all, laugh often!”
G K Chesterton, the British, Christian writer is reputed to have said, “Because they take themselves lightly, angels can fly!”
Most of us wear such gravitas around our necks that we are condemned to trudge under its awful weight. Such seriousness does not make sense to me.
There are two basic platforms from which we may view a life.
If we believe that the physical universe is all there is and that man’s lot is confined to a temporary physical existence, then surely we would want to make the most of it. Under these circumstances we should be seeking to milk as much joy out of this ephemeral existence as we can.
However, for many, our spiritual beliefs lead us to understand that we are more than this physical being fated to live and die in a relatively short period of time. If those are our beliefs, then what happens to us in this physical manifestation is not of great import. Surely then we can take life lightly knowing that it is either a precursor to something else or alternatively largely an illusion!
But no, we can not, it seems, but help to take life seriously. Richard Bach, in that lovely little book Illusions wrote, “The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.”
However, it seems to me that the principal architect of the aforesaid gravitas, is ego. When we are so tied up with our appearances, our achievements, our possessions and our status we are always under threat from the world at large. All the threats, real and perceived, that the world throws at us must be repelled – and this is a pretty serious business!
Well-adjusted people, on the other hand, are secure in their sense of self and can be disarmingly self-deprecating and not having to take life too seriously find no discomfiture in laughing at themselves.
Some studies have even shown a correlation between the level of good humour in a workplace and productivity and innovation.
Let us end with an apt quote from Alan Watts, the British philosopher and populariser of Eastern spiritual traditions.
“For the world of form and illusion which the majority take to be the real world is none other than the play of the Spirit, or as the Hindus have called it, the Dance of Shiva. He is enlightened who joins in this play knowing it as play, for man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.”