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'Happiness and the Absurd': 16 Quotes on Being Silly

Humans can be very serious creatures. We contemplate existence and plan for the future, open bank accounts and pay bills. But no one, arguably, can immerse themselves solely in serious matters for too long, not even the most dour of bureaucrats. Perhaps that’s why we’ve evolved to utilize a very special talent: silliness.

Silliness is very much a part of human psychology. As cognitive psychology professor Janet M Gibson put it, “Everybody’s silly at some time, it’s just that it’s not identical.” What’s more, she explained, “It takes a lot of social intelligence to know when you can be silly… That willingness to do silly things, to be playful, can be like saying, ‘We’re going to relax the constraints of the world.’”

So there you go: It’s fine to be a little goofy sometimes. It may even be necessary. But if you’re still not convinced, here are some quotes about the benefits of being silly, from famous figures past and present.

Mix a little foolishness with your prudence; it's good to be silly at the right moment.
— Horace

Life is a jest, and all things show it; I thought so once, but now I know it.
— John Gay, poet and dramatist

Give me the young man who has brains enough to make a fool of himself!
— Robert Louis Stevenson

If people did not sometimes do silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done.
— Ludwig Wittgenstein

I was young and foolish then; now I am old and foolisher.
— Mark Twain

Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable.
— Albert Camus

Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly.
— Rose Franken, author and playwright

Children have one kind of silliness, as you know, and grown-ups have another kind.
— C.S. Lewis

Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.
— Christopher Morley

What Jim [Henson] really wanted to do was to sing songs and tell stories, teach children, promote peace, save the planet, celebrate man, praise God, and be silly.
— Jerry Juhl, writer for “The Muppets”

Until you’re ready to look foolish, you’ll never have the possibility of being great.
— Cher

The best actors, I think, have a childlike quality. They have a sort of an ability to lose themselves. There's still some silliness.
— Kenneth Branagh

Most grown-ups forget what it was like to be a kid. I vowed that I would never forget. I also found child's play — stuff that was not considered serious, but goofy — was the stuff I liked to do, so I still do it as an adult.
— Matt Groening, cartoonist and animator

I remember a friend many years ago who had taped a sign to his refrigerator: There's a dream dreaming us. If you try to think about what that means it makes your mind silly, but that silliness is good.
— Natalie Goldberg, author and speaker

[Silliness is] very, very, important. Very important. The other side of it is taking yourself terribly seriously. Which I think occasionally, you know, if you're a brain surgeon, I wouldn't want him to be silly when he's doing the operation. But afterwards, if he wants to go laugh around that's fine. There's got to be a silly side to all of it.
— Michael Palin

If the universe is anything, it should be fun.
― Neil deGrasse Tyson

Photo credit: MmeEmil/ iStock

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About the Author
Tony Dunnell
Tony is an English writer of non-fiction and fiction living on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
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What President said, "We need men who can dream of things that never were"?

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