Carefree vs. Careless

Who doesn’t luxuriate in the feeling of being carefree? Didn’t we feel carefree when we were young? When dreams were unreserved and hopes high. How about now? As much as we still want to dig that carefree, easy feeling, we are older and wiser now. We don’t want to be careless and squander those good feelings. We really ought to cherish them forever.

Carefree [kair-free] an adjective meaning without anxiety or worry; requiring little care. Synonyms are lighthearted, joyous, elated, and cheerful. Related words are blasé, breezy, cavalier, nonchalant; casual, easygoing, informal, and laid-back. Near antonyms are earnest, serious, somber; careful, cautious; anxious, worried. Origin is “free from cares,” 1795.

Careless [kair-lis]an adjective meaning 1) not paying enough attention to what one does; 2) not exact, accurate, or thorough; 3) done or said heedlessly or negligently; 4) unconcerned. Synonyms are 1) inattentive, indiscreet, reckless;  2) inaccurate; 3) unmindful; 4) thoughtless, forgetful, inconsiderate. Its antonym is careful. Origin is Middle English “free from anxiety, unconcerned” and “inattentive, not taking due care” from 1561, in carelessly.

Let’s first consider how Dana Spiotta used these terms in her wonderfully reminiscent (certainly for me!) Stone Arabia (Simon & Schuster, 2011, Page 154):

“Bill slammed his fist into Nik’s face. A loud smack of skin with a cracking sound underneath. A sharp out breath, a yelp of pain. The fight was over. Bill stormed down the stairs. I shrieked at him. He left. Nik had a towel on his face, blood everywhere. And I knew, of course, that Ada and her friend had watched the whole thing. I could hear Ada crying. I held her and watched Lisa, Nik’s girlfriend at the time, clean him up. Then I had this thought. This ugliness means something, this pointless ugliness in front of my child. Were we shameless, was that it? That must not have been it, because I felt a hot, deep shame. It wasn’t that we were shameless, it was that we were careless. In that moment we had closed the distance between carefree and careless. Somehow, as we grew older, we lost our liberated, irresistible claim on being carefree. I felt it then, even if Nik didn’t. It had snuck up on us and hardened into something else.”

Nik’s life is ruled by rock ‘n’ roll. Encompassed and enthralled by it. This story of family and affliction and duty and truth and creativity, of growing up and growing old, of following one’s dreams, is transcended by that all-powerful entity that is rock ‘n’ roll. And throughout we are confronted by what we may have once considered carefree and what may have turned careless – our feelings, our actions, our motives.

Albert Einstein said, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” But we may have to give this round to Taylor Swift, who pretty much sums it up, “I’ve been careful in love. I’ve been careless in love. And I’ve had adventures I wouldn’t trade for anything.” Can’t argue with that.

Songs with careless in the lyrics include Careless Whisper by George Michael (“Time can never mend, the careless whispers of a good friend.”), Careless Heart by Roy Orbison, with Diane Warren and Albert Hammond, (“If not for my Careless heart, You’d still be loving me, If not for my Careless heart, You’d still be mine.”), and Careless Love by Janis Joplin (“Oh love, oh love, oh careless love, Now now don’t you see what your careless love has done.”). Not a coincidence that it is these three artists singing about being careless. They know a thing or two about heartbreak, don’t they? And lest we forget, let’s refer back to Ms. Swift’s salient point.

A song that includes carefree in the lyrics is Gordon Lightfoot’s Carefree Highway (“The mornin’ after blues from my head down to my shoes, Carefree highway, let me slip away.”). But there are many more songs that evoke that carefree feeling: (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay by Otis Redding, Daydream by the Lovin’ Spoonful , Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper, Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Free Falling by Tom Petty.

One artist strikes me as being the embodiment of carefree. At least it’s what his music seems to reflect. Jason Mraz, whose bouncy music has such carefree song titles – I Won’t Give Up, I’m Yours, Lucky, Life Is Wonderful. He is the epitome of all things positive and upbeat. Wouldn’t you think? Although his music may have the sound and the sheen of being carefree, his actions go deeper. They are anything but carefree. He cares about his fellow man and the environment. He supports tree planting organizations. And pursues recycling efforts. For his Summer 2012 US tour, Jason partnered with Reverb to leave each city he visits better than it was before by lessening his environmental impact there. From his journal dated September 17, 2012, “To sing and travel is to occupy the air. Planting trees and servicing them is to be grounded.” His music’s spirit may be carefree. But this caring artist is everything but careless.

Chew some gum. Skip down the street. Bounce a ball. Play with a puppy. Ah, to feel carefree






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