Seriousness: Misunderstood?


Dear old Oscar: He had a bon mot for every occasion, didn’t he? Yet witty though this undoubtedly is, there could be an element of truth to it. There is, in my view, something heavy and borderline sanctimonious about perennial seriousness: a lack of imagination; a want of playfulness; a superiority and righteousness masquerading as serious intent. It is often used as an implied contrast and covert carp, aimed at subtly pointing out, and shaming, those who are overly flippant or playful or seen as not taking life seriously enough. Somehow, lack of seriousness has become a criticism – and seriousness evidence of moral superiority.

And yet…isn’t there a point at which seriousness becomes so one-dimensional, so consciously self-congratulatory, that it is, in its way, every bit as shallow and silly as the opposite?

Seriousness tends to preclude humour – and this I find very sad. Those who pride themselves upon the quality of seriousness they evince in life can often add a joylessness, a leaden weight, to the company upon which they inflict themselves. They can be so busy tramping the moral high-ground that they forget to roll down the childlike hills of childlike fun and play and laughter.

Of course there are times when seriousness is the appropriate, indeed the only, response to life’s vicissitudes; but to eschew the ‘lighter’ emotional reactions strikes me as foolish, arrogant and potentially dangerous!


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