Life is a serious matter, right? I mean, if we don’t take it and ourselves seriously then no one will? WRONG! It’s time to laugh at ourselves!

“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the Gods made for fun.”

The sentiment that “life should not be taken too seriously” is a sort of dry, crusty sponge of a cliché—a statement that seems to have had every drop of nourishing value squeezed from it after ten trillion uses.

And yet like so many lifeless platitudes, it contains a certain amount of wisdom—practical wisdom that is damn easy to forget in the day-to-day trenches and tangles of our lives.

So, in the spirit of revitalizing a Saharan truism and reflecting upon the real importance of retaining levity in the face of frustration, I dug up this brief collection of (hopefully) poignant quotes on approaching life a bit more playfully.

Thoughts on the Wisdom of Levity

From Fyodor Dostoevsky: 

“The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.”

Joseph Campbell in the book Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion:

“As you proceed through life, following your own path, birds will shit on you. Don’t bother to brush it off. Getting a comedic view of your situation gives you spiritual distance. Having a sense of humor saves you.”

Alan Watts’ ever-charming perspective:

“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the Gods made for fun.”

Kurt Vonnegut in his novel Breakfast of Champions:

“I can’t tell if you’re serious or not,’ said the driver.

‘I won’t know myself until I find out if life is serious or not,’ said Trout. ‘It’s dangerous, I know, and it can hurt a lot. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s serious, too.”

A sentiment of Charles Bukowski’s:

“Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.”

Ray Bradbury in Twice 22: The Golden Apples of the Sun and a Medicine for Melancholy:

“I always figured we were born to fly, one way or other, so I couldn’t stand most men shuffling along with all the iron of the earth in their blood. I never met a man who weighed less than nine hundred pounds.”

The illustrious Friedrich Nietzsche weighs in:

“The certain prospect of death could sweeten every life with a precious and fragrant drop of levity; and now you strange apothecary souls have turned it into an ill-tasting drop of poison that makes the whole of life repulsive.”

From the immortal William Shakespeare: 

“Frame your mind to mirth and merriment
which bars a thousand harms
and lengthens life.”

Finally, Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, as quoted in Dr. Seuss: American Icon:

“Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age. Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world. It’s more than just a matter of laughing. If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.”

Jordan Bates is the creator of Refine The Mind and an English teacher in Busan, South Korea. He earned a BA in English Literature with minors in Philosophy & Spanish at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Read the story of Refine The Mind and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

9 Thinkers on Not Taking Existence too Seriously | Refine The Mind

Featured photo credit: Kurt Vonnegut, da morto | Daniele Prati via flickr.com

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