Elements of Fun
Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways. ~Stephen Vincent Benét
Fun. A term we take for granted because like a lot of words that are commonly used, the meaning becomes fuzzy over time. A word is like a note struck on a guitar string. After a while, the intended vibration loses its edges. You must redefine it in order to have a discernible note in the symphony of meanings that help you navigate your environment.
When people think of fun, the first things that may come up are obviously exciting activities like snowboarding, traveling to Europe, going to a party or an amusement park. And yet there are many people who wouldn’t describe these activities as fun at all because fun is not a statically defined notion that can be collectively agreed upon.
Can fun be manipulated and controlled into something purely synthetic? Can we fake fun just to go with the flow? Picture going to an event, concert, party, or shindig just because our friends are going and we truly do not want to be there; a friend of ours asks, “are you having fun? And that is a good question. Fun can often contain an element of novelty but not always, sometimes you have fun when you are doing an activity that is already familiar. So there is more to it than how much or how little you participate in the activity in question.
Have you ever had fun in places you shouldn’t? Like in the middle of a boring class, waiting for a tow truck with a friend, going to the drugstore, or studying at the library? These are experiences that should not have been fun at all and unexpectedly we may recall an experience we had in one of these prosaic settings as being fun.
Perhaps the common denominator of fun experiences, no matter how varied, is that we get to be ourselves. Mundane or exciting, in those occasions that we experienced as fun, there was something aligning on the outside and inside that allowed an authentic part of us to come out and be playful. The people we were with understood our jokes, there was no pressure to be someone we weren’t. A part of us felt welcome and valued, and we felt secure enough to feel lively and undistracted. Sometimes it’s a part of us that is skillful or good at an activity and that part is receiving an outlet and it feels fun.
Maybe if we started becoming aware of exactly what it is that makes something fun, we could make sure that we are allowing room for it in our lives. Because it seems as people get older, having fun is something that becomes harder and harder to do. People can make one compromise too many thinking that fitting in on another’s terms can lead to fun and pleasure. But it never does. You leave yourself behind, the one experience of which you are looking for in every new or habitual moment of your life.
People sometimes bet against the present for their future. They may feel the need to “get everything done” and make so much structure that they unintentionally lock out playfulness. The energy around them can become full of resistance to anything flowing and unfolding. These people feel like they are carrying a big burden, they don’t feel light. They don’t feel welcoming or valuing of fun because they don’t feel that way about the playfulness in themselves.
Then there is that magical person, the magnetic one, who is easy with their humor, generous in their perspective and makes you feel comfortable. You may think of this person simply as “fun” but now you have a better idea of what’s driving that and you know how it works.
We all started life with a part of ourselves that wanted to come out and play and we can still be welcoming towards it. The reason why we are born with this fun-craving part of us is because fun and play are crucial to learning and connecting. The more we can recognize the elements of fun as a society, the more we can heal from a dominion of the opposite values of duty and conformity.