It’s a Serious World Out There

From a very young age, I can remember being told that I “take things too seriously” or “take yourself too seriously.” I’ve always found this a curious criticism, because it continues to the present day and I still can find nothing wrong with the behavior.

Is life meant to be enjoyed? Most likely. We humans are wired for it. I manage to do so when I can, in my own ways: reading, writing, traveling, enjoying the companionship of friends and family, enjoying meals and fine beverages, occasionally seeking out the company of a closer partner. These things make me happy. I recognize that my tastes run to the cerebral and the serious: my primary forms of entertainment are science fiction, philosophy, and history. I recognize I can get grouchy on occasion and so try to keep a balanced attitude toward my life, considering myself neither as evil nor as brilliant as some of my delusions would have me. I can even laugh at myself on occasion.

But yes, I take some matters quite seriously, or personally.

I believe life is a serious business, something we are granted for mysterious reasons still unknown to us. Given how rare and precious the gift of life is, I try to make my life worthwhile or productive. I dislike a lot of frivolity and what I would call serious wastes of time (television sitcoms and cinematic romantic comedies come first to mind). For reasons clear only to myself I take rudeness and malice quite personally, especially when they’re unwarranted. I suppose if I have a redeeming trait in the midst of all my hard thinking, it’s that I prefer to treat people with kindness until they give me a reason not to do so. It was not always so, but I’ve made that effort in my 30s and 40s.

If someone disregards, insults, or hurts me, yes, I take that personally, and yes, I take it seriously. Good grief, why shouldn’t I? Is meanness something to be laughed off? Is evil something to be tolerated? That said, it usually takes a lot of pushing and petty cruelty before I push back. And yet when I do push back, I’m then told that I take things too seriously.

Somewhere early in my childhood, I suppose, I developed a very strong sense of personal honor and justice–medieval concepts, perhaps, but real enough. I don’t take it well if I feel I am being treated badly without cause. With cause? Okay, I can see that. If I was rude to someone (I’m not perfect), I don’t expect the other person to be joyful to see me, but I do my best to at least manage politeness. On the flip side, if I have done someone a good turn, I expect that to be recognized. Likewise, if I have done a stranger no direct harm, I dislike being treated badly.

So yes, I take life seriously. As far as I know, this is the only life I have. Some have the attitude of “Life is short, have a good time” or “Life is short, don’t take things so seriously.” I think the opposite. I belief life is short, so I should make an effort to be a good person. Or even that because life is short, it’s wrong somehow to spend it on cruelty and anger. I’m easily hurt, but more often than not the first to apologize for my anger.

And yes, it is still possible to have fun and be happy and be kind to others while responding to meanness or assaults on my person or character in a personal matter. It means, in the end, that I wish to be a decent guy and that I’m willing to stand up for myself so that I will be treated as such.

Tell me again where any of this is a bad thing.

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