Seriousness is not a virtue… seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do….
For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy; hard to be be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.
-G.K. Chesterton: Orthodoxy chapter VII
The world needs more light, and no small amount of lightness. This was modeled for me by my mother on the day I was born. I was a premature, wrinkled, screaming, jaundiced newborn. When the doctor held me up to show me to my mother, he told her, “You have a beautiful baby boy.” Her response? “He’s not beautiful, he’s ugly!” I’m not making this up, I entered this world only to be greeted with a joke.
It wasn’t long before my young self began noticing that there are a lot of things in this world that we can laugh and, and I loved pointing them out to people, or making them up if the situation was lacking in levity. Only a few years later when my father died, l learned that there really are serious, terrible things; there is grief and loss. But I also learned that there is the amazing, wild grace and love of God, and that the serious and terrible things don’t ultimately win the war.
So we may as well laugh whenever possible, which is one reason I love Chesterton. In case you’ve never met him, G.K. Chesterton was English, lived about 100 years ago, and had a brain, so reading his books requires concentration, but it’s worth every ounce of effort. If you don’t know anything about him, check out Who Is This Guy and Why Haven’t I Heard of Him by Dale Ahlquist.
Here’s one brief gem from Ahlquist’s article:
This man who composed such profound and perfect lines as “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried,” stood 6’4″ and weighed about 300 pounds, usually had a cigar in his mouth, and walked around wearing a cape and a crumpled hat, tiny glasses pinched to the end of his nose, swordstick in hand, laughter blowing through his moustache.
He was a funny guy who wrote a lot of seriously important things. Alhquist points out:
This was the man who wrote a book called The Everlasting Man, which led a young atheist named C.S. Lewis to become a Christian.
But weighty topics from this weighty figure were always filled with a joyful levity. More from Chesteron from Orthodoxy…
The swiftest things are the softest things. A bird is active, because a bird is soft. A stone is helpless, because a stone is hard. The stone must by its own nature go downwards, because hardness is weakness.
The bird can of its nature go upwards, because fragility is force. In perfect force there is a kind of frivolity, an airiness that can maintain itself in the air… a characteristic of the great saints is their power of levity. Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.
There are certainly things worthy of being serious about, but as another fan of Chesterton, Rich Mullins, put it, “It don’t do to talk about glory if you never get a laugh.” That’s why I write here…I’d like to see a little more of God’s glory, and I like to laugh. I’m sure they’re closely related.
So here’s to the blessing of laughter and of lightness, and here’s to G.K. Chesterton, a great writer who was a Christian, loved humor , had facial hair, wore a hat and glasses, and was know by his initials instead of his first name.
Wow, I knew I liked this guy for some reason.