Levity in Response to Gravity
Do we take ourselves too seriously? This is an interesting question because it forces each of us to examine how we react to life events. It also invites us to identify when and where the injection of humor might be valuable.
A friend of mine plays piano semi-professionally and was asked by a local newspaper to give an interview. He eagerly accepted and received an email several days later filled with the reporter’s questions. The questions, which numbered almost 20 in total, were pretty shallow and included puffy items like:
- What age group most enjoys your music?
- What is the largest audience you’ve ever played for?
- Do you have a full-time job?
My friend thought about these questions for several days before deciding they were too serious to be taken seriously. That may sound like a misnomer, but he fully intended it just as it sounds. The questions were ridiculously sober, so much so that he didn’t want to answer them. He was disappointed by the reporter’s apparent lack of inspiration and decided he didn’t care about proceeding with the interview.
So my friend did something rather unusual, especially for one who is trying to promote his music, and provided the most humorous (and sarcastic) responses he could think of. He did this in the hopes of sending a message to the newspaper, which he believes needs to lighten up and report in a more thought-provoking way. His answers to the above questions were as follows:
- 150 million
- Yes, I am the Wizard of Oz
He emailed his responses and promptly received a message suggesting his light-hearted approach wasn’t appropriate for the newspaper audience. At this point, he forgot the whole endeavor and didn’t bother to send a second set of answers. The newspaper never published his story, and he’s heard nothing from the reporter who initially contacted him.
It’s safe to say that my friend does not take himself very seriously. This is an admirable quality in that it helps him seamlessly roll with the punches and navigate through life. But is his lack of seriousness perhaps so great that it keeps him from seeing some moments of gravity as necessary?
I am at the opposite end of this spectrum, in that I take everything to heart and treat it with the utmost sobriety. I feel every slight, real or imagined, like a punch to the stomach. And I don’t cope well when faced with a setback, because I take life so seriously that I want it to be perfect. I try to anticipate events (impossible), plan for the worst (waste of time), and gauge others’ reactions to avoid offending them. (Nobody else does this, so why should I?)
It’s difficult not to take life seriously, because you only have one. But treating nagging, little events with more humor might actually be a great way to cope. My friend handled what he thought were mundane newspaper questions by dismissing them with comedy. It might not be a bad idea to use this approach when dealing with aggravating circumstances, like losing your place in line, having a door closed in your face, or receiving rude treatment from a customer service representative. It would probably be an immense relief to laugh at the absurdity of these events rather than responding to them with anger.
Other circumstances, however, such as considering a move or deciding upon a career path, are very serious and require deep thought. You’ll know when and how to establish a balance – just listen to your instincts. And remember to smile when the going gets tough… it’s therapeutic.