Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to Think Like a Fool #38: Be Serious

PLAY: Be Serious
"Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."
—George Bernard Shaw

"Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious."—Peter Ustinov

"My work is a game, a very serious game."—M.C. Escher

This is the last fool tool under the category of Play and it's about being absolutely, deadly serious. Stand up straight! Wipe that smile off your face! Have fun!

In the past, I've spent all morning in my rehearsal studio figuring out ways to "accidentally" make a wooden easel fall apart, exploring intensely the variations and subtleties of unexpected destruction. Then I take a break and think how absurd this would look to someone peeking in my window from outside, especially because of how serious I look. How serious am I? As serious as a scientist. A funny looking scientist.

And then I remember something Steve Martin once sang: "I get paid for doing this."

Fools play, and when they play deeply, they temporarily forget they are playing. Their objectives become as important as the Holy Grail, no matter how mundane. The game becomes their whole world.

No matter what you are working on, as an experiment, treat it as if humanity's survival depended on your actions. Give little things the significance of a funeral. Inflate the worthiness and urgency of your goals as if you were on an ancient quest. See if this gives your efforts more focus and concentration.

Then step back and laugh.

Think: How can I play more seriously? How important can I make this? What if this were a life or death situation?

Tomorrow: How to Think Like a Fool #39: PRETEND:Change Identity

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