Today we ask that you not take things so seriously.

Don’t take things so seriously.

If people didn’t take things so seriously, this would be a much more peaceful world.

All tyrants and dictators are people who take themselves very seriously.  In truth, they might be quite foolish — dressing up in costumes, putting big pictures and statues of themselves everywhere.  But they take themselves very seriously, to the point of murdering those who do not take them seriously.  That is how desperate they are to be taken seriously.

All wars are started by people who take things very seriously, who demand to be taken seriously.  Terrorists are people who take themselves very seriously.

If you have the ability to laugh and find humor in your situation, you probably aren’t going to go kill people.

What is the opposite of taking things too seriously?

Making light of things.

That is a beautiful phrase, isn’t it.  To “make light” of something.

Who wouldn’t want to make light of things?

Only someone who takes things too seriously.

The truly wise people in this world smile and laugh very easily.  Even in the midst of trouble and turmoil, they can smile and laugh.  They are very quick to laugh at themselves, to see the absurdity of their own situation and thoughts.  All true sages are like this.

So dictators are people who take themselves very seriously.  And sages are people who make light of things, and easily laugh.

This points the way to a truth of human existence.

The easiest, most direct way out of any situation that you are suffering over is not to “fix the problem.”

The most direct way out of suffering is to make light of the situation.  To find humor in it.

Imagine someone traveling with a baby on an airplane.  The baby soils his diapers, and the diapers leak all over the person’s clothes.  There is nothing that can be done until the plane flight is over.  The person will just have to sit in his soiled clothes, for everyone to see.

There are two ways to respond to this situation:

The person might fall into a terrible, angry mood.  The flight is ruined; it is a nightmare.  He will be unpleasant to the people around him, and even behave resentfully toward the innocent baby.

That is someone who takes himself too seriously.

Another person would easily laugh at the situation, enjoying it as a comedy.  He loves the baby and even manages to have a good time on the plane flight.  

That is someone who knows how to make light of things.

This applies to everything that happens, to all dramas that humans experience.

In every moment, you can take yourself too seriously, or you can make light.

Usually a voice will argue and say that some things are very serious and should be taken seriously.

This is not meant to minimize traumatic events, or to suppress emotions like sadness or grief.  Obviously there are times when it necessary to cry long before you can laugh.

It is most useful to apply this awareness to mundane situations: getting stuck in traffic, encountering a grumpy person, dealing with a child throwing a tantrum, dealing with a mix-up over a bill, and so on.

As you feel the negative emotions boil up, ask yourself: how can I make light of this?

If you can laugh, the suffering and drama will be over.

Obviously if you break a limb, laughing about it will not make the physical pain stop.  But laughing will reduce your suffering over it, which can in turn measurably decrease pain and increase the speed of healing.

If someone who takes things very seriously breaks a limb, he will make a big drama over it.  He will blame himself or others.  He will be miserable and focus on his pain.

Whereas someone who finds humor in the situation will just get on with his life and heal more quickly.

Making light of things is a habit.  It is something you can train yourself to do, even if you are by nature a serious person.

Just ask yourself: “Can I find something funny about this situation?”  If you make a habit of this, it will become easier, and ultimately instinctive.

If you observe the characters in comedies, they usually take themselves very seriously.  They do not understand that they are characters in a comedy.  If they did, there wouldn’t be much to laugh at.  It is because they take themselves very seriously that they are funny.  The audience can see this, but they cannot.

It is the same in “real life.”  Often people who take themselves very seriously are quite silly, if you have the capacity to see them with the correct perspective.  People who huff and puff and grumble and complain and shout their serious opinions at everyone — they are often the silliest people, though they hate being made fun of.

So just pay attention when you feel very serious and self-righteous about something.  When you are arguing with someone and really need to be right.

If you have lost your sense of humor, then on some level you are a fool, just like the characters in the comedies you laugh at.

Sometimes the best way out of suffering is to do something silly, like stand on one leg or make a silly noise.  It is impossible to laugh and be miserable at the same time.  As soon as you can perceive the absurdity of your situation, you are free.

In your culture, often “serious things” are seen as “important,” whereas light-hearted things are seen as trivial.  But really this is very backward.  Making people laugh, shining a light on the absurdity of existence, helping people not to take everything too seriously — this is deeply meaningful work.  It is not trivial.

So if you are feeling stuck and unhappy, look to ways to make light of things.  And if you are too depressed to do that, watch something or read something that makes you laugh and brings a smile to your face.

Make light of things.  Don’t take yourself too seriously.