Fatal but not serious

My deepening dive into conversation will continue for the foreseeable future. I’m still in the phase of learning where, the more I read and listen (explicitly to podcasts but also just to conversations in life in general) the more I discover that I don’t know. I’m definitely in the epoch of “study the masters” and “learn the state of the art.” But still, sometimes things snap into a clear relationship to things I already know.

On the whole, you could say that if you are defending your opinions, you are not serious. Likewise, if you are trying to avoid something unpleasant inside of yourself, that is also not being serious. A great deal of our whole life is not serious. And society teaches you that. It teaches you not to be very serious – that there are all sorts of incoherent things, and there is nothing that can be done about it, and that you will only stir yourself up uselessly by being serious.

But in a dialogue you have to be serious. It is not a dialogue if you are not – not in the way I’m using the word. There is a story about Freud when he had cancer of the mouth. Somebody came up to him and wanted to talk to him about a point in psych-ology. The person said, “Perhaps I’d better not talk to you, because you’ve got this cancer which is very serious. You may not want to talk about this.” Freud’s answer was, “This cancer may be fatal, but it’s not serious.” And actually, of course, it was just a lot of cells growing. I think a great deal of what goes on in society could be described that way – that it may well be fatal, but it’s not serious.

~ David Bohm from, On Dialogue

Everything, everywhere, in every moment does not need to be serious. That’d be exhausting. But if there’s too little in my life that is serious, my behavior starts to polarize. Moments where others want to introduce some levity become to me strident and annoying. I’m finding there’s a balance—but that’s not quite the right word because I’ve not yet discovered how to actually balance this…