Friday, February 4, 2011

Will You Please Get Serious

If you are not careful with the way you conduct yourself in print or in person, you run the risk of coming across as serious, which wouldn't be so difficult to live with were it not for two things:  (1)   for as long as you can recall, individuals about you wondered aloud when you would "get serious," and (2)you are in dead earnest when you are being the opposite of serious, which to you has for some time been humorous.  You could add a third "thing" which is that having fun often connotes to you going on the attack against pomposity, seriousness, the moral high ground, and formality.

Not only that--by which you mean all the above "things"--you do not enjoy discovering pomposity or formality in your appearance, your lectures, and your writing.  Such discovery is the equivalent of being told your zipper is not as up as it ought to be, there is spinach on one of your teeth, or some wag is able to tell you what you had for breakfast from the simple act of looking at your shirt front.  You were responsible for a writer friend granting permanent retirement to a necktie after you observed that so long as he wore that necktie, he would never go hungry, needing nothing more than some hot water into which to dunk the tie for a nourishing soup.

You are not comfortable when you are formal.  Your best thoughts on the reason for this discomfort is the fear you had at one stage in your life, about fourteen to about seventeen, when you thought you were about two ants shy of a picnic.  You can't have been fun to be around at that time, your defense being to bully all and sundry with a vocabulary and repertoire of memorized poetry of such breadth as to stun the recipient into silence.  Pity the teachers who had to put up with the output.  It no longer matters to you that you be seen as formal because formality has, on reflection, got you precious little.  Nor was formality fun, but there you were, convinced that what you considered fun was more an index of how little you knew and how little you cared for things, which, you came to realize, was as though Conventional Wisdom, objectified as being any adult in authority, was whispering in your ear that fun was stupid and uncaring.  You began to assume then assert that you knew different.

Fun is quite specific; it is the enjoyment of being immersed in something and/or someone you care about, music, for instance, or story, or writing, or friends, or a lover, or some stunning example of role model, fun is playing on the floor or in a suitable stretch of unvarnished landscape with a dog; it is going to endless baseball games with your father not so much from any love of the game as from your awareness that this was the way you could communicate with your father that was better than any of the ways of communication you had developed outside the ball park.  You were a terrible, at best mediocre baseball player but that helped add to the communication and so you believed it was time and effort well spent; it repaid you handsomely with time spent with this remarkable man, whom you contrived to become immersed in baseball with and, at other times, speculations about the relative speeds of horses circuiting about an oval track.  Fun is writing with serious intent, yet not being pompous.  Fun is finding the presence of pomposity within yourself, then making fun of it, hopeful such fun will shield you for long periods of real time and writing time from the dangers of pomposity, which are no fun.

When you set out to relate something to someone or write something to see what it is and what it means, you may become so serious in your approach that you will write your way into pomposity.  If you are fortunate, you will begin to enjoy the quest for understanding before you become sidetracked into seriousness.

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