On the subject of being some sort of divine cosmic comedy show, I feel compelled to go deeper. As children, nothing is serious. Everything is fun, everything is a game, everything brings delight. As adults, we lose our sense of wonder, “grow up” and “realize” that the world is a serious place. Why is that? People come up with all sorts of reasons, from an undercurrent of evil to some sort of punishment by God for, well, God only knows what. What if the truth were much simpler? Could it be that the world is so serious because WE are so serious?

We take everything seriously. No joking allowed, no fun, no games. Those things are called “vacation” and aren’t a part of everyday life. No, life itself is dismal, gloomy, serious, devoid of any sort of pleasure or delight. This world view has to come from somewhere, and as much as we would like to blame it on external forces, the truth is that it starts from within us. The reason our world seems so dark and dismal is not because that is how it truly is, but because we are viewing it through the same glasses we view ourselves.

We put up so many walls around our hearts to “protect” it, to keep it from being hurt, broken, used, and trashed. We are perceiving a threat from the outside, so we try to shelter ourselves deep inside, put aside fun, games, imagination, because we believe that all of this is result of a “serious” world hell-bent on destroying our dreams. As a result, our hearts start to die a little bit every day, locked up in our own created prisons, never allowed to grow beyond the walls of “protection” we have so diligently invented. The more our souls retreat into darkness, the darker the world looks. We see the world through the eyes of our souls, and if our souls are kept locked up in darkness, we cannot see the world any other way.

It is a medical fact that muscles become stronger through a cycle of damage and repair. The more they are worked, they develop little tears and damages. The body, in the process of repairing and healing these microscopic injuries, create a product that is stronger than it was before. Of course, it is possible to overwork them, damage them too much, and then repair takes longer, but if worked properly, they gradually become stronger every day. The flip side, however, is the story of the muscle that is never used. We see these in cases of severe nerve damage, even in broken bones; a muscle that is not used, not worked, shrivels up. It’s a process called “atrophy” and, if the muscle is never worked properly, it can be permanent. That is why people who break their legs have to build muscle up slowly again, and why dogs with extensive knee surgeries require physical therapy to prevent the muscles for doing just this very thing. Muscles that are worked grow stronger; muscles that are not shrivel and die.

I have recently come to accept this comparison to the soul. It’s something I’ve known for awhile but never been able to explain. A soul, when worked, will grow stronger; a soul that is hidden away, locked up, will shrivel and die. When we lock our hearts away from the world, we are doing the same thing as never using a leg after a break. We worry that we will break the leg again, so instead of using it slowly, we just never use it at all until the muscles wither away and the leg becomes useless. Likewise, we are so afraid of having our hearts broken, our dreams shattered, that we never give ourselves the opportunity to chase them. The more we follow our dreams, even the little ones, the stronger our souls and hearts become. This doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen, that we don’t hit bumps along the road, it just means that when we do, our souls our strong enough to face them.

When we take chances, step outside our comfort zone, one of two things will happen. Either something amazing happens and our dream comes true, or we hit an obstacle. The truth is, no matter how many times a dream comes true, we will eventually hit an obstacle. When this happens, it isn’t because we are being punished or tested or any of the other ridiculous accusations people hurl at God, it’s just a fact of life. Potholes don’t appear in the road because someone wanted to punish us for the cars we drive or test how well we deal with them, they happen because of a combination of external factors that occur over the course of time. We face the obstacle — sometimes we overcome it, sometimes it’s too great for us at the time. But regardless of the outcome, we walk away stronger, like a muscle after a workout. We take time to heal, and we return to face the same obstacle or the next one, stronger every time. But we cannot face obstacles if we never follow our dreams.

Break out of the prison around your heart. Start small, and gradually build up your soul-strength. The longer a soul sits unused, the longer and more painful it will be to build it up again, but that doesn’t mean it will never be strong, and it’s not an excuse to keep it imprisoned. Let your soul free to dream, to imagine, to live. The world will be far less scary, far brighter, and, in the end, a much less “serious” place to be.