The Fun Backlash

In the Flower Power Era, life was supposed to consist of mindless fun. People got mindless, and waited for the fun. If it began, they couldn't tell. So "mindless fun" went into the oxymoron bin, along with "poor rich man," and "good-hearted villain."

These days, responsible people feel guilty if they "permit themselves" to have "escapist" fun. They equate fun with fooling around. To gain certainty, they want to forgo amusements, and stick to business.

If "fun" is defined as "irresponsible amusement," then what is the word for "light-hearted amusement?" It needs a word, because it is a life-enhancing value. It can be an end in itself, or a means to refuel. A backlash against rational fun is a backlash against efficacy, and against life.

If you spend the day intending to dig up and replant the yard, then you do not need a break. If you actually do all that digging, then you need to relax. From observation, you know that living requires rest as well as effort. No matter how strong your resolve, muscles will not dig forever without rest. If you pretend that they will, you are substituting the idea of omnipotence for the idea of efficacy.

If you spend the day intending to resolve your unresolved issues, you spend the day fooling around. If you actually do the work of identifying issues and figuring out their relation to all your knowledge, then it's time to relax. Later, with recovered strength, you can check out your conclusions for accuracy. Amusement can be a reward and also a means toward sustained effort. To pretend you don't need it is to substitute the idea of omniscience for the idea of efficacy.

If while digging up the yard, I am joking with a neighbor, am I having fun, or working? If I do my mental work with fishing rod in hand, am I thinking, or having fun? The answer is that I am living like a human, capable of doing things together. Whistling while you work can be a sign not of distraction but of mastery.

The essential that distinguishes rational fun from fooling around is conscious control. Rational fun begins and ends volitionally, not randomly. It is not time out from life, but part of the enjoyment of life.

Relaxing amusement for a math genius might look like mind-cracking puzzles to me. Relaxing amusement for a comic genius might look like sheer silliness to me. Your fun is not judged by what it does for my life, but by what it does for your life. If it helps you live your life, it is an objective value for you. If it gets in the way, it is wasteful foolery.

Certainty is as consistent with light amusement as with any other element of a good life.

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