Inner Peace: Seriousness and humor

One planet, one people, one family, by Sally McKirgan.
May 30, 2022

Can you hear the ‘laughter of the gods,’ the humor of the God’s-Eye-View?

By Ed Hirsch

What shall we be serious about, and what shall we be humorous about? What about life? What about this life we’re living right now? Some say we need to take this seriously and stop playing games, and some say we need to be able to laugh at ourselves and stop taking ourselves so seriously.

Well, both seriousness and humor have a higher and a lower octave (as most everything does). When we take ourselves too seriously, this means that we are taking ourselves as some self-image, some concept, some role, and we are taking it very seriously. Yes, as if our life depended on it! That is a false life, based on a false self. Who is taking it seriously? The ego, which holds on to its self-image so strongly, so that it can feel real and important.

More than that, it can find solace and comfort in it, and maybe find approval, that its life is worthwhile. And more than that, it makes itself feel real, so it doesn’t have to feel its inner-felt worthlessness, even emptiness, fakeness, unreality. It can even take a self-image of worthlessness, or something shameful, so at least it has something to hold onto, something to preoccupy its attention.

We can also distract ourselves with humor. We can laugh at ourselves, even laugh at the human condition, although all too often it comes with a nervous laughter. We can express a sarcastic humor, but it doesn’t liberate us from our human condition and the terror of it all, the sense of mortality and separateness. We can use humor without any sense that we are doing so strategically.

And, of course, there is a higher octave humor and laughter. Sometimes, from a higher perspective, we can laugh at a more contracted version of ourselves that we recall, or perhaps see another acting out, and we can do so with compassion. And then an even higher octave is when we are in a more-or-less liberated state and can hear the “laughter of the gods,” or the Humor of the God’s-Eye-View, from which life, and the entire cosmos, is just a game. How different when we take the game so seriously! And how different when we prematurely take life as a trivial game, only because we are too immature to know better.

Yes, there are so many levels or angles on all of this! My point is not to try to categorize it (seriously or humorously!) but to convey the one simple point, which is to pay attention, to be aware of where we’re at in any moment. Not to judge it, not to peg it in some grand system, but simply to be honest, authentic, real, intimate, open, free. Free to feel our pain, free to feel our enjoyment, and free to feel our utmost, innermost Essential Nature that is beyond both pain and enjoyment, both seriousness and humor.

Edward Hirsch, M.A., teaches about the Practice of Presence at OLLI and offers free weekly Zoom meetings in the teachings and practices of Presence from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays, on a drop-in basis (sign in at: Send 600–to–700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to Richard Carey (

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at
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