the further adventures of Serious and Silly

from The Oaqui, via email

Serious and Silly Play Hide and Seek and Find God

Of all the players on my inner playground, Serious and Silly are the best known. They’ve played together for years. They understand each other intimately. They can play the most complicated games you can imagine. And, from time to time, they can really play beautifully together. There’s one particular game that they can never play particularly well. Yet they play it almost all the time, and seem to really enjoy it. It’s a variation of hide-and-seek and peek-a-boo and achieving enlightenment.

Typically, Silly suggests the game. Serious always wants to be Seeker. This, actually, is a good arrangement. Serious is an expert at keeping rules and being fair and defining what’s off limits. Silly, on the other hand, is remarkably good at being the Hider.

Next they decide on Home Base. The inner playground is full of potential home bases and hiding places, from Toe to Tongue, Throat to Lung. Silly usually picks the Nose.

Silly will play Hider, and Serious, as we already predicted, will play Seeker. Serious focuses all attention on being the breather, the nostril, the sensor of the air. And then begins to count (backwards, by primes, from 97). Silly is supposed to be hiding by the time Serious reaches zero. Despite years of practice, Serious just can’t ignore Silly for the whole count. So, as usual, Serious has to start over again several times before Silly is really ready to hide.

Finally, Serious completes the count. At last, the moment of truth. Serious, in a blink of the inner eye, reaches the unavoidable conclusion that Silly is definitely hiding. At this point, the game almost always breaks down. It’s just too much for both of them. For Silly, hiding is fun, but only for a little while. And for Serious, just the thought of being all alone, leaving Home, without Silly…it’s almost too frightening. Even Serious doesn’t want to have to be that serious.

Fortunately, both Serious and Silly have had a lifetime to play. All it takes to get Silly out of hiding is someone to say “Allee Allee Oxen Free.” I don’t know why they keep on playing Hide and Seek. Tag is a much better game for both of them. They’d never have to be apart. And, together, they could even find other players to play with.

I tried to ask them once, when I thought they were between games. And they started running after me, yelling “You’re IT.”

Silly and Serious Get Scared

Silly and Serious were the two most opposite characters that ever had character. Serious and Silly were identical as identical twins. Silly and Serious were as real and actual as you or I can be. Serious and Silly were as imaginary as you or I can imagine.

One day, as Serious and Silly were walking home, when they were approximately almost exactly two blocks from the doorknob on their front door, they both noticed, at the same time, that there was really nothing else to do – nothing else, that is, except walking home. It wasn’t really that they were bored. Just that they’d gone on that very same walk so many times before. It wasn’t really that there wasn’t anything to do. There were all kinds of things to look at: the sky and the clouds, the street lamps and the telephone poles, the houses and the people walking by, the cars, the birds. It was just that they needed something new to do. And everything, even the things they hadn’t ever noticed before, seemed, well, old. All they need, really, was something else to be doing while they were walking – something else to do or think about, just until they got home.

About half a block later, Silly came up with a Silly idea. Wouldn’t it be fun, Silly thought, to pretend that something, something really scary, is following us? Something really, really scary Something that could catch us and eat us, in some kind of pretend way, completely up!

For the next half-block, Serious thought very hard (which, for Serious, was just about as fun as possible). Serious thought about the implications and ramifications, about being scared and about scary things and about the effectiveness of pretending to be afraid as an antidote to boredom. Serious thought about the pros and cons, the ups and downs, the ins and outs. In the mean time, Silly thought about the scariest possible things, and how fun it could be to pretend them into being – big things with lots of teeth and very, very bad breath.

And, at the very moment when they were each exactly one block from home, Serious made a decision. Yes, Serious decided, pretending a scary thing into being would in deed be an effective distraction and simultaneously a meaningful exercise of the pretend muscles. And, by sheer coincidence, Silly had decided exactly what the pretend thing looked like, precisely what it sounded like and absolutely how it smelled.

So, for the whole next block, the closer they got to their house, the closer the Pretend Thing got to them. When they were three-quarters the way home, they could almost see the Pretend Thing’s teeth and eyes and claws. When they were half-way home, the Pretend Thing was exactly twice as close and the Pretend Thing’s teeth and eyes and claws were twice as big. When they were a quarter-way home, the Pretend Thing was four times closer, and the Pretend Thing’s teeth and eyes and claws were four times bigger, and the Pretend Thing’s breathing was four times louder and the Pretend Thing’s breath was four times smellier. And, when they were an eighth of the way to their house, they could hear the Pretend Thing’s toes scratching on the sidewalk. Eighteen toes. All on one horrible foot that smelled even worth than its breath which now smelled eighteen times worse than it did before. They could even tell exactly how horrible it’s horrible smell smelled!

And, by the time they were in front of their house, they could hear the Pretend Thing’s terrible growl – like the growling of a big, angry, hungry, and very upset stomach.

Just as they got to the door, Silly was almost not pretending at all. Silly was almost really, really scared. And Serious, even Serious was getting Seriously scared. Very Seriously.

And, just as they got the door finally opened, and the Pretend Thing had dug all of its eighteen pretend toes deep into the front step, and scrunched itself into one big angry, smelling, gurgling coil of very mean muscle absolutely and totally ready to pounce and grab and bite – Serious and Silly jumped into the house and slammed the door completely shut right in the made-up face of the horribly pretend Pretend Thing.

“Wasn’t that,” said Silly, shaking and sweating and breathing hard, “fun?”

“Most,” answered Serious, holding on to Silly as tight as Silly could be held, “amusing. Most amusing, in deed.”

“Well then,” said Silly, with a particularly silly grin, “how about if we open the door and invite the Pretend Thing in?”

Serious thought for about one-half of a half-second, and said “I don’t think so. No, come to think about it, I really, actually, genuinely, honestly and totally seriously don’t think so.”

Serious and Silly meet Naughty and Nice
and learn to play Kick the Can

One day, Serious and Silly were playing Hide and Seek. Actually, it was the 17,534th day Serious and Silly had been playing Hide and Seek. But who’s counting? Which, of course, is a whole other question.

So there they were, as usual, Serious once again trying to get the rules clear. Silly once again being, well, silly.

Only this time, Silly clearly stepped out of bounds with this silliness thing, and did something that could only be called naughty.

“That’s naughty,” exclaimed Serious. And so it was.

Naughty, it turns out, was with Nice at the time. Who immediately introduced everybody to everybody else and proceeded to organize a game of Kick the Can.

And Kick the Can, as only someone as nice as Nice would know, is a game that would attract Serious, Silly and especially Naughty, with whom Nice was. Because it’s like Hide and Seek, the very game Silly and Serious had spent a lifetime playing.

And it’s just different enough to be a New Game.

In Kick the Can, the Can is Home Base. A different kind of Home Base, though. A kickable one. A moveable, pick-up-and-throw-away-able kind of Home Base.

And just like in Hide and Seek, you hide and try to get back to the base without being seen. And if IT sees you and tags you before you can get to the Can, you become a Prisoner and you have to stay at the Can and do pretty much nothing. But if someone else can sneak in without getting tagged by IT and kick the Can, everyone is free and gets to hide again and IT has to be IT another round.

Oddly enough, everyone thought this would be fun.

So, guess who winds up being IT?

Serious? I don’t think so. By the time Serious got ALL the rules down, everybody else would have found something else to play.

Silly? It? You can’t expect Silly to play by one set of rules long enough for anybody to figure out the game.

So Nice it is. That is, Nice is IT. As for Naughty, nobody, not even Naughty, wanted a Naughty IT. Not for the first round, at least.

And guess also what becomes the Can?

Something in your personal landscape as actual as a Can, as common, as kickable. Tangible like a Can, but evanescent, like a Can being kicked. Like hearing the sound of the surf? Feeling the sand between your toes? Seeing the outline of a cloud?

Remember, it has to be something everyone agrees to, but Nice gets to decide.

Guess where everybody goes to hide.

Guess who gets his Can kicked by whom.

Guess what happens when Nice gets Serious.

Guess how long Nice has to be IT.

Silly Plays Grownup

Silly and Serious were the two most opposite characters that ever had character. Serious and Silly were identical as identical twins. Silly and Serious were as real and actual as you or I can be. Serious and Silly were as imaginary as you or I can imagine.

One of the big differences between Serious and Silly is that Silly likes to pretend to be Serious, while Serious hardly ever likes to pretend to be Silly. As you know, both Serious and Silly are very good at pretending.

One morning, Silly and Serious were playing around the house. Actually, they weren’t playing “Around the House.” They were playing “House.” You know, the pretend game when you pretend to be a baby or a mother or father.

Up until this time, Silly always got to play Baby. Silly could goo and gaa and drool and drip and crawl and kick, and be more of a baby and have more fun than even a real baby could have. And Baby Silly was more than silly enough to make this into a game Serious could take seriously. While Silly was playing Baby, Serious could try and try to get Baby to eat some pretend custard,. Or Serious could try to make Baby sit still, or be quiet for more than 10 seconds. Because Baby was always moving and making silly noises, trying to make Baby do anything was a serious enough challenge even for Serious

Today, at this very time, for some probably very serious reason, Serious decided that the playing House really wasn’t very fun after all. Even though Silly seemed to be having more fun than a box full of self-rattling rattles, and even though trying to get Baby to do anything required Serious to exercise great skill and cunning and things – even though the game really was fun, Serious just wasn’t having any.

So Serious harrumphed gallumphed and up and quit. “I will play Grown-Up no more,” explained Serious in a deep and serious voice.

“OK,” answered Silly, while trying to make a hat out of the bowl of pretend custard. “You play Baby, and I’ll play Grown-Up.”

A most interesting turn of events, thought Serious. A most significant reversal of roles, thought Serious again.

Well, as you can guess, Serious was just as good at playing Baby as Silly was. In fact, Serious was very, very good at playing Baby. Serious could cry and get angry and throw tantrums and be stubborn and cranky and make messes and knock things down – all so well and convincingly that everybody really thought that Serious was acting just like a big Baby.

Here’s where this story starts to get somewhat sad.

Once Serious discovered how much fun it was to play Baby, that’s pretty much all Serious wanted to play, ever. At first, Silly thought that maybe this whole thing wasn’t such a good idea, after all. At first, it really wasn’t that much fun for Silly to play Daddy or Mommy. It was hard for Silly to look busy all the time, and full of reasons for doing anything, and really, really hard to learn never to smile and only to laugh at TV and never with Baby, and to knit and furl one’s eyebrows and keep them furled and knitted all the whole day.

After a while, Silly finally got really good at playing Grown-up – so good that people thought Silly really was almost as Grown-up as Daddy or Mommy – a very hard working, very serious Grown-up who would never do things like making a hat out of a bowl of pretend custard. After a similar while, Serious discovered how seriously one could play Baby and how many seriously baby-like things there were to do: whining and nagging, screaming and crying, throwing toys and tantrums.

Soon, Silly was even better than Serious at playing the very serious Grown-up. Because, unlike Serious, Silly could forgot that it was all pretend. And Serious was even better at playing Baby than Silly was, because even though Serious knew it was supposed to be all for fun, Serious could be stubborn and cranky, loud and selfish, messy and irresponsible, spiteful and sometimes even mean – without looking like any of this was even the least bit fun, at all.

So Silly would act Grown-up all the time. All the time. From breakfast to dinner, from getting up to going back to bed. Even playing games, Silly would never laugh, and always look as if each turn and each move were things that had to be taken as seriously as bed time or teeth-brushing time or school time. And Serious would stay Baby-like all the way from breakfast to bath time. And even though there were for real things that only Serious could take seriously enough – things like taking care of pets and learning the alphabet, like helping people and making friends, like growing up – Serious was too busy being too much of a baby to think about anything else at all ever.

The somewhat sad thing is that even though Serious really wasn’t having fun, and Silly really wasn’t having any fun either, they both kept playing the game. Hour after hour. Day after day. All the way until Silly and Serious grew really up – so up that Serious and Silly had a real house with a real spouse. And all that time, Serious never got to play Grown-up, ever. And Silly kept on playing – well, not really playing, not really even pretending, but truly almost believing – to be all grown up, and full of very important reasons with no time left: No time to play. No time at all.

You would think that a story that is as somewhat sad as this one is the kind of story that can only get sadder. Well it actually isn’t. Because one day there was a baby in Serious and Silly’s house. A real baby. A baby that really cried and really played and really ate and really needed to be dressed up and cuddled and cared for and looked after. A baby that wasn’t pretending to be Baby. A baby that was even more real than even Serious could pretend to be. A baby that was as good at being silly as Silly was, as good at being serious as Serious ever hoped to be.

And this baby was so good at being Serious – at crying so really hard and needing so much to be held and fed and changed – that Serious started to wonder if there might be things that were even more important than getting to play Baby. And day by day the real baby showed Serious all kinds of reasons not to play Baby, or even to pretend to play Baby, or even to pretend to be playing to play Baby. Until all that Serious wanted to take really seriously was the real baby.

And this same baby was so good at being Silly – at, for example, giggling and gurgling and blowing spit bubbles all at the same time – that Silly started to remember how fun it used to be to play, how fun it once was to have fun. And day by day the real baby reminded Silly about the fun of making someone laugh, the fun of tickling and doing silly things and making silly faces and silly noises,. Until finally Silly thought how silly it was for someone who could be as silly as Silly to pretend to be too grown up for fun.

So, at the end, this really isn’t a sad story at all. Silly got to be Silly again, in a way that was more fun than Silly could ever have had by playing Grown-up. And Serious got to be Serious again, in a way that was even more fun than playing Baby. Until everything was finally exactly as it should be.

One day, while Baby was all alone, playing one of Baby’s favorite all alone games – a game Baby called “House,” Baby wondered: wouldn’t it be even more fun to play “Grown-Up?”


Hearing Silly

Whenever I want to hear what Silly has to say, all I have to do is talk to myself out loud – not so loud that other people might think I’m being, well, silly, but just loud enough for me to hear Silly talking out, as it were, loud.

Actually, it’s more listening to the out loudness of it all than it is listening to Silly. In fact, should Silly so choose, I could even be talking nonsense and/or gibberish.

In the OR

When I had to go for my eye operation – not painful, but definitely condusive to anxiety – I discovered that it was Silly who was the most worried and Serious who was the most helpful in calming me down.

See also:

The Importance of Being Silly by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi


.With Oaqui Commentary
My friend, Major Fun, is sometimes known as Doctor Fun, sometimes as Professor Fun, sometimes as Bernie De Koven. He is helping people find delight in win-win games. …For years we have been having dialogue about how to let Silly out of the cage. Both “Serious” and “Silly” coexist within us. Major FUN thinks Serious has Silly imprisoned in most of us.These two forces operate in our consciousness. Silly can’t take action because the force of Serious overrules Silly. Serious likes to think of itself as the Great Manager. Silliness gets bound up by the businesslike approach of Serious, which always demands, “What’s the use?”
and vice versa.
I once said to my son, “That was a stupid movie.” He replied, “No Daddy, it wasn’t stupid. It was silly, and I like silly movies.” That’s very, very discerning.Silly doesn’t get out often enough – so there’s this conspiracy not to let Silly out because Serious says Silly is stupid.
Silly and Serious play best when they play together. A movie can be silly and not only not stupid, but positively profound.
We need to learn how to play and let Silly out so that we can simply have fun. Sometimes the child in us does play, but we feel guilty. Sometimes the parent in us scolds us for gambling with or wasting our time. Very seldom does the adult in us get to play with high consciousness – high play facilitates the kind of communication in which my heart can communicate with your heart and share energy and joy.
Without Silly, Serious tends to take him and herself too seriously.
Imagine I put some music on and, with all my seventy-six years, I look in the mirror and begin to dance. Objectively, I am not a ballet dancer. But subjectively, OY! am I a ballet dancer! If I can make a leap I can make eight scissors on the way up! We don’t have a chance to use Silly in this way often enough. Someone once told me that people don’t stop playing because they get old: people get old because they stop playing.
Where we get Silly and Serious to play together, you get Deep Fun.
Silly brings us lots of vitamins! I once read of a research study in which they took samples of T-cells (cells which indicate immune function and general health) of elders before and after the experiment. They got folks to wear the clothes they wore in the 1950’s. The researchers played the music of that era in a room decorated from that time and had them dance to the tunes they danced to in the 1950’s. They then took T-cell samples again and showed an increase in T-cells after the merriment. It seemed to the participants that the burdens of serious years had been lifted from their shoulders. They experienced more vitality and energy.
It’s all about taking fun just seriously enough.
My suggestion is that you invite some friends over who would like to play silly with you. Dress up in funny clothes, play games in which everyone can win, and make time for fun and hilarity. Chances are that you will like the experience and that you will want to repeat it with your friends at least once a month. I suggest full moon times as the best time to invite Silly as Master of the Revels. Now, go have some fun with this!
Serious and Silly are Twins.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi


It’s all right. I understand. It’s hard to take this Serious and Silly thing, um, seriously.You read about it. Maybe you even check out the links. And yet you still find yourself asking yourself: “What’s the actual deal, here? What’s so important about Serious and Silly that I should potentially consider looking for them on my inner playground?”Well, I’m glad you asked. Every game is designed to be taken seriously, no matter how silly it seems or how silly you get when you play it. There’s got to be a challenge, a purpose – something to strive for.Every game evokes Serious and Silly. Every game gives Serious and Silly an opportunity to play together, to get closer to each other, to become more intimate, more understanding. And the better the game is (by “better” I mean the more appropriate it is to you, and the people and space you’re playing in, and your collective moods) the more healing, the more “wholing” the encounter between Serious and Silly.

And the more aware you are of each, the easier it is for you to be both.

“Silly is first recorded in Old English, in the form sælig, with the senses ‘fortuitous, happy or prosperous’. The sense ‘spiritually blessed’ is also attested early, as is the sense ‘pious, holy, and good’. In the early thirteenth century there are textual references to ‘holy martyrdom’ as seli martyrdom and a female saint is referred to as a seli meiden or ‘blessed maiden’. Similarly, a prayer book from the early fifteenth century describes the cely or ‘blessed’ Virgin Mary as follows:

Cely art thou, hooli virgyne marie, and worthiest al maner preisyng.

During the Middle English period, and especially from the late thirteenth century onwards, the meanings of the word silly become more diverse. At this time, the sense ‘blessed or holy’ develops into a new sense, ‘innocent’, but this in turn provokes a number of more negative senses, including ‘harmless’, ‘deserving of pity’, ‘helpless’, ‘insignificant’ and ‘feeble’.

Margaret Scott in

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