Two days after enlightenment obliterated the me I thought I was, my partner Fergus had a relationship upset. Something I had done or not done was impacting his well being. I listened with an empty mind to his concerns, then went to bed early. When he finally joined me at midnight I’d been soundly sleeping for two hours. He shook me awake, and said, “We have to talk, it’s serious.”
I laughed and rolled back over and the thought arose, nothing is serious, not even death. I said. “Let’s talk in the morning.” My light hearted dismissal did nothing to placate his wholehearted commitment to seriousness. So he left for the living room sofa to spend a night ruminating about how serious things were. By morning, he had decided things were so serious he was leaving the relationship.
I could see he was in the grips of seriousness and that his choosing was reactive, not responsive. So I said sure, whatever you want, but maybe give yourself three days to think about it.
The next day his attack of seriousness subsided and he decided to stay. But still the story is not about the outcome of a relationship. It’s about the Power of Seriousness that so clearly over-rides the deepest truth of being which has an inherent quality of playfulness.
As a result, I laugh a whole lot more these days. Ever since I landed on the enlightenment square in this divine game called life, I realize I‘ve also been given a “get out the of jail card.” I’ve been released from the prison of seriousness, a high security mental lock down that seems to be a mandatory sentence when Mind is running the show.
You’d think that the Ego would be more invested in the prison of sorrow, or the incarceration of anger, or even the solitary confinement of loneliness. But from an Awake standpoint, what is observed is that the most pervasive trap is really seriousness. Because you have to be serious in order to believe you are sad, angry and alone. Serious runs the unreal world. Yes’ Ma’am. No Sir. It’s built in to the fabric of growing up, where respecting the parent, teacher or priest meant being serious. Giggling got you a detention or hard stares from the grown ups. Uncontrolled laughter in serious settings was not sanctioned.
This is probably why Jesus said that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, one must become like a little child. This was not a prescription to become naïve, or unknowledgeable or even necessarily innocent (you can’t become what you are), but to engage in play, laughter and fun. This, to break up the monopoly the serious mind has on daily existence.
We take life and our self seriously because we believe our survival depends on our ability to assert control, demonstrate ambition and master conformity. These three priorities of the mind are simply not do-able if you are laughing, playing and having fun.
When I was a child, I remember one of my most feared predicaments around laughter. I ‘d be swimming in the deep end of a pool with my sisters, and suddenly something would make me laugh, and I would laugh so hard I could no longer swim. I was laughing and drowning. It took every effort of will to stop laughing long enough to dog paddle to the wall of the pool to safety.
This is a teaching story, in a way. Because if you laugh hard enough in the deep end of life, in the midst of misery and pain, you just might drown. You just might sink under the water and the mind just might die there, in all that water-soaked laughter. And then you would go on laughing. Seriousness would die. And recognition of the playful god you have always been, happens.
The teacher Osho had a lot to say about this topic of laughter and play. He went so far as to claim that the egoic mind makes us laughter-blind, in the way people are color blind—simply unable to perceive the giddy truth of life that is really there, all along. Just as a color blind person cannot perceive, say, green, a laughter-blind ego cannot see the absolute inherent joyful, playful, silly and guffawing truth of being.
I know, I know, I hear your protest–life is full of unbearable tragedy, injustice, suffering and pain. And yet, when you are awake, it’s apparent and irrefutable that this too will pass. That all of it is storm clouds, passing across the blue sky of beingness. Mortal laughter is an echo of the deepest truth of your being—there is a lightness here, a beautiful song of delight that loves a good laugh, especially the kind that brings tears to your eyes. The very fact that Santa Claus, the icon of this holiday season is merry, not serious, tells us something. We are called deeply to the Merry Truth of Being, and joyful engagement in the dream is one antidote to the Power of Seriousness. If you abandon serious in favor of mirth, you give the mind a whole lot less misery to wrap itself around.
So you choose: Is your life funny or miserable? Is it sad or laughable. Can you find the one kernel of giddy truth in the muck of what is wrong?
The thing I know more than ever since I woke up: Laughter happens. And seriousness drowned at the bottom of that swimming pool of the mind on October 24th.
Ho Ho Ho! Merry Holidays,
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