Some subjects are so serious

A succinct and provocative statement by Niels Bohr, flying in the face of the common supposition that the more serious the subject the less appropriate it is to joke about it.  It also echoes an equally pithy quotation, from Hemingway’s For Whom the Bells Toll. 

Some subjects are so serious that one can only joke about them.

I distinguish between two types of seriousness by thinking of one as being potentially (though not necessarily) playful and dealing with serious subjects, and the other type, which is more about form than substance, which I’d call ‘earnestness’, a kind of overdone gravitas. 

See also a subtle and thoughtful splitting of the seriousness atom by David Shulman, and meet some serious clowns. 


Source: Niels Bohr (1885-1962), quoted in The Economist Espresso, 7 October 2020.

Photo credit: Stux at pixabay



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