Swimming Against the Stream

Sacred Cows #2

Fun – Sacred Cow in Extremis

Yes let’s have some fun.

And if by fun you mean let’s enjoy a few pleasurable amusements, a game of hide-and-go-seek with flashlights in the dark, spitting watermelon seeds at a picnic, a roller coaster ride at a carnival, I say why not. I don’t mind gales of laughter, bad jokes told well or rolling down a slope covered in snow. But incorporated in this traditional idea of ‘fun’ is the notion that these are occasional temporal diversions. They are not a standard feature to be achieved in daily life. They are separate moments not representative of the whole. These little moments of pleasure are like the bubbles blown by children. One pinprick and they are are gone. Thus a phrase like “Life is fun.’ would be totally meaningless in almost any traditional view of human culture that you could summon up.

Carnival Poster

A remnant of the old school of fun.

Yeah but who still holds a traditional view… Therein lies the sacred cow that I intend to roast. In a world pickled in ever changing technologies and rapidly evolving variations on narcissism and nihilism disguised as individualism, anything smacking of tradition is pretty much castigated and mocked as unevolved and, even more tellingly, as boring.

Live Laugh Love

A statement of universal values 21st Century style.

It’s curious to me how many times in my life I have heard people justify pretty much any activity in the name of ‘Fun’. Everything supposed to be Fun: Music is Fun. Food is Fun. Sports are Fun. Driving can be Fun. Sex, of course, is Fun. Flirting is Fun. Cheating is Fun. (Till the tears begin.) Dogs are Fun. Movies are Fun. Videos of bestiality are Fun. (This is not an exaggeration.) Boxing is Fun. Fighting is Fun. Drunk driving is Fun. (Until you wrap the car around tree.) Yoga is Fun. Christianity is Fun. Shouldn’t politics be Fun? Travel is Fun. Italy is Fun. Bosnia is now Fun. Fun is whatever you define as Fun. Everything is Fun!

Jesus is 100% Fun

The folks who made this probably were under the impression that they were communicating the message of the Bible.

Except things that are the antithesis of Fun. Things that are boring. Classical music? Ballet? Mid-20th Century art films? Boredom. Reading a long book about the history of the Gulag is just plain work. Heck picking up a physical book and lugging it around is is a lot more boring than watching YouTube videos of car crashes in Russia.

And over time I have heard any number of apologias for life’s meaning involving Fun with a capital ‘F’. “Don’t be so serious, let’s just have some Fun.”, “As long as everyone’s having Fun, right?”, “As long as you are having Fun, that’s the key.”, “You gotta have Fun.”, “As long as I’m having Fun, I’ll do it.” or as Heath Ledger once said “I only do this because I’m having fun. The day I stop having fun, I’ll just walk away.” And then he did.

Heath Ledger Nihilist Joker

Heath Ledger takes his Nihilistic Fun a little too seriously as the Joker in The Dark Knight

But what is this new conception of Fun? It is indeed very illusive. It has become a state of being so wide as to incorporate our etiolated sense of meaning itself. If I translate the unfocused usage of my peers I come up with a something that is perhaps pleasant and largely free of pain, though even variations of stupid injury can be roped into this new idea of Fun. I think it has to do with laughing a lot, smiling, a kind of no risk low level ecstatic experience. Maybe we can just call it the Big Wow. A sensation filled existence without the tedium of logic or rehearsal. The entertainment industry is key here. And it most certainly is an anti-intellectual creature. You really can’t question it.

Yet it doesn’t take very long in considering this teleological concept of Fun to see the massive gaping holes in such a worldview. Both raising children and caring for the elderly are situations where things get a whole lot less than Fun very quickly. It takes a commitment that moves far beyond the laughter of a moment to get you through these relationships. In fact most of life takes a kind of tenacity to get beyond the pain, the repetitions, the fears, the misunderstandings, the endless practice it takes to be truly good at anything. Yet somehow this wireless dreamworld we call contemporary existence has deluded us that all of the traditions are invalid as we pay our tickets for our very own personalized fun houses.

How did we get here?

Are we having Fun yet? Headstone

Everything can be Fun

(To be continued…)

Byrne Power
Haines, Alaska
July 4th 2013

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3 responses

  1. People are really serious about fun too – I’ve had people get really super pissed off if I’m not smiling like an idiot while I’m with them and they’ll give me a hard, threatening stare and say “You don’t look like you’re having fun!” And while I consider “I’m not” a perfectly acceptable answer, they don’t. Sometimes they’ll literally proceed to bully and harass me as if that’s going to increase my fun for their entertainment.

    July 5, 2013 at 11:19 PM

  2. Yes there is very much a groupthink aspect to this new concept of Fun. And I too have certainly had folks tell me to smile more, etc. I’ve never wanted to be cruel. But I am occasionally tempted to reply “My mother just died.”, which would expose the underlying presumptuousness behind such remarks. We have no idea what others are going through as we demand they join us in our Fun. To live in the world of Fun is to live in a world without compassion.

    July 6, 2013 at 8:06 AM

  3. Nice article!

    August 31, 2013 at 6:36 PM

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