Not one shred of evidence

Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious.
– Brendan Gil

At first, it may seem an absurd statement. I notice my own automatic thoughts about this, surfacing somewhere in my mind: Of course life is serious, at least for some and in some situations. This is something that only privileged and self-centered people cay say, unaware of the circumstances of many people, animals and ecosystems in the world. 

And yet, where is my evidence? What is my best evidence that life is serious?

People die. People suffer. Things go wrong. There are wars, poverty, inequality, injustice. We are destroying ecosystems we are completely dependent on for our own wealth, well-being and life.

Religions and philosophy tells us life is serious. The news and commentators tells us life is serious. My parents and teachers tells me life is serious (sometimes).

Yes. And where is the evidence? It’s not inherent in life that it’s serious. It’s all in my own images and thoughts about it. I cannot find it outside of these images and thoughts.

It may feel that way. I may interpret the world that way. I may live as if it’s true. Others may say it’s true. And all of that comes from taking it as true in the first place. Innocently, and from love (for myself, others, life). It doesn’t mean it’s actually true, that it is some final or absolute truth, or somehow inherent in reality.

A mini-inquiry:

What happens when I believe that life is serious? What happens, in specific situations?

Right now: I feel heavy, burdened by choices. I feel I have to make the right choice. I imagine serious consequences if it’s not the right one. I feel tired. I wish I could give up, throw in the towel.

Who would I be without that thought?

Right now: Curious about my situation. Interested. Lighter. Some joy. Excited to see what will happen. Excited to learn about myself, in/through this situation. Seeing that I can change course later, if that comes to me to do.

And can I find examples of how the reverse is equally or more true for me?

(a) Life is not serious. –> Nothing in life says it’s serious. When it’s all recognized as Spirit – and I can find that here now – it’s not serious in that heavy handed way.

(b) Serious is not life. –> That’s true too, in my experience. When I believe life is serious, I feel burdened, deadened, heavy. I lose “life”, the sense of aliveness, curiosity and excitement. I lose a sense of adventure. (It is of course life, but it doesn’t feel so alive to me.)

What is the reality of it, is life serious?

I cannot find any evidence. And I see that I tend to function better (with more kindness, receptivity, open to options) when I hold that thought lighter, when I see it as an innocent question.


Quote Investigator: Brendan Gill wrote for The New Yorker magazine for six decades. In 1975, near the four decade mark, he published a memoir titled “Here at The New Yorker” that included the following passage: 1

In fact, not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the argument that life is serious, though it is often hard and even terrible. And saying that, I am prompted to add what follows out of it: that since everything ends badly for us, in the inescapable catastrophe of death, it seems obvious that the first rule of life is to have a good time; and that the second rule of life is to hurt as few people as possible in the course of doing so. There is no third rule.

And those are innocent questions as well, and something to explore in inquiry: Life is hard. Life can be terrible. Everything ends badly. Death is a catastrophe. There is death. etc.

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