I remember a professor once upon a time telling me that life was a game, and I started tuning him out.
I’m pretty sure nowadays he didn’t mean it in a trivial way, but when I see people say things like “People who take themselves seriously make me crack up,” I just wonder.
Look, the world is filled with serious things. People are coming back in body bags and with limbs lost just to give another people a chance at democracy, and that other people doesn’t seemingly care for the most part.
I suppose someone not quite in my life anymore would have wished that I didn’t take her seriously in any way whatsoever, so that a cleaner break could have been effected. What she has learned about me, I sometimes think, is that I should not be taken seriously at all, I think. I guess I should be avoided or ridiculed. After all, I’m not losing life or limb, and to love when such feelings are not reciprocated is pathetic. One should only love when given the correct opportunity, many would say. And finally, I do sometimes think that I can change things, or people, or make life better generally – how could I assert such a mission when the only real proof of seriousness, it would seem, is sacrifice, or that which exists via consent?
Aristotle says the life devoted to pleasure is not a serious life whatsoever, and that only the philosophic life (the life of leisure, contrast leisure and pleasure), and the political life (the active and effectual life, compare effectiveness with actions in leisure) are the only two serious alternatives regarding how we should live. It’s a tricky formulation, because the politically oriented life always threatens to collapse into Empire, the desire to acquire more and more to satisfy wants, even if that want is only that of security.
And so I think a certain “faith” – I’m probably using the wrong word – underlies the philosophic life. That “faith” concerns two things: it is a trust that we can survive even if we don’t always preoccupy ourselves with securing material things (Matthew 6: 28-34 echoes the Aristotlean teaching about not trying to control chance completely), and is also the “faith” that life isn’t really a game for anyone, alone or with another. People lose their lives and limbs so we can be free and live well, and the least we can do for our those who sacrifice is treat each other with respect, and show an appreciation for the diverse – and sometimes very serious – uses of freedom. I suspect that what underlies the charge against others taking themselves too seriously, of course, is an inability to account properly for one’s own life or responsibiities, as dissipation occurs many times through a delusional group effort, where everyone has consented, but not thought.