King Richard III and the Cost of Taking Yourself Too Seriously

February 6th, 2013

Frequently, I find myself taking life’s challenges far too seriously. It’s not that there aren’t things that are important.  Sadly, we are tested a lot in life. But when things seem overwhelming, it helps to put it all in perspective by remembering what a good friend reminded me once.

Absent some huge scientific breakthrough, in one hundred years, we’ll all be dead anyway so what’s the big deal?

That’s comforting, but it’s not.

It does help, however, to put lots of things into perspective.  It’s particularly helpful whenever you’re tempted to take yourself too seriously.

That’s where King Richard III comes in.

Remember Richard III?  He’s the King of England who William Shakespeare vilified in one of his plays. Thanks to Shakespeare, Richard III is remembered as a deformed and depraved individual who murdered his own nephews in order to gain the throne.  Never mind that Shakespeare worked for the Tudors who had supplanted Richard III and thus the Plantagenets  via his death at the  Battle of Bosworth Field. Clearly, following that event, it helped the Tudor cause to make Richard look as bad as possible.  Shakespeare did his part in writing Richard III.  In that respect, you could consider Shakespeare an early version of the modern day political spin doctor.

Yesterday, Leicester University archaeologists announced an important discovery.  They could conclusively state that they’d uncovered the remains of Richard III–under a parking lot in Leicester.

Not only could they prove that it was indeed poor Richard buried there, they also shared details of some of the wounds which either caused or followed his demise.  Among them was what they described as a “humiliation wound.”  Apparently, someone at the time thought it would really show that nasty King Richard if they stabbed him in the right buttock.

Think about it.  In life, Richard III was King of England.  As human beings go, you really can’t shoot much higher than that (status wise anyway).  Even though he evidently had lots of issues to contend with, including a curvature of the spine which was also confirmed by the scientists who discovered him, he probably generally went around feeling incredibly good about himself.  He probably demanded that everyone treat him a certain way or they’d find themselves as guests in the Tower of London.  Richard III likely took himself very seriously.

So what happens?

He ends up buried under a parking lot for over 500 years with a stab wound in the butt.  To add to his humiliation, now everyone in the world knows about it.  He’s even become the butt (no pun intended) of late night television comedians.

So what’s the lesson here?

Clearly, no matter how big or small we are or think we are in life, it really doesn’t matter.

Enjoy life and never take anything so seriously (especially yourself) that it overwhelms you.  Going around acting smug and full of yourself isn’t good for you or those around you. And whenever your tempted not to heed this advice?

Just remember KingRichard III who will now be known not only  for his alleged misdeeds according to Shakespeare but also for his very undignified final resting place  and for holding the record for the most expensive parking lot charge in history.



One Comment

  1. Michael Guy
    Posted Feb 07 2013 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    One the one hand, I think you have an excellent point. We, as people do have the ability to take things too seriously. But as I wrote this, I realized that although that is a valid statement, it comes as a double edge sword.
    If we allow ourselves to be too serious, we could cripple ourselves for fear of a miss-step.
    On the other side of that sword however…there is something to take very serious.
    The bones of this King were found. He lost a battle and was eventually buried there in the site of that future parking lot. But for him to lose a battle, somebody had to step up and challenge him. Somebody had to decide to make a change and then follow through that decision with action. What if that had never happened? What consequences would have that caused? It is true. In a 100 or so years, we, as living people, are all gone. Our decisions however. They can live forever. Because somebody made a decision to stand up and challenge this king, history was changed forever….possibly for entire nations in ways we do not even understand.
    While I do understand that fear of error can be a crippling force, the force I see more crippling today is indifference.