In at least one of his novels, "Shibumi," the author Trevanian cast a jaundiced eye on the western devotion to "fun." If I recall his writing correctly, both "fun" and the "merchant" mentality left him seething with disgust at the careless mediocrity of which his cohorts in the west were so adept.
The word "fun" is defined by an internet dictionary in part as:
-- enjoyment, especially from an activity that is not important or seriousIn rough terms, "fun" strikes me as something exercised in good times, times when the chores are done and can be set aside for the moment. It is not a birthright or an imperative. It is, often, a bit of harmless frivolity that feels good, like laughter. It has no particular import except to the extent it makes anyone feel good. It produces little or nothing outside this relaxing, easing moment. A steady diet of "fun" or the constant striving for "fun" vitiates the nature of "fun," as for example the constant, demanding, upward-spiraling addictions of Hollywood or other well-heeled venues in which people strive to survive on a diet of icing and a sugar-high demands ever more sugar. Literal sugar is sweet, but as an undiluted diet, the rate of diabetes worldwide is going through the roof. And the same is true for sugar, or fun, as a mental construct.
After years of fending off attempts to create casinos in Massachusetts (where I live), the state House of Representatives finally gave its OK yesterday to the creation of three casinos in the state. The measure must pass the Senate and be signed by the governor, but in tough economic times, the whole matter stands its best chance in years. Sources for state and local funding are pinched, proponents point out. Except for high end jobs, well, a lot of people in Massachusetts are, as elsewhere, hurting. Schools, police and fire protection, roads, bridges ... everyone needs more as they are being forced to do with less. Casino income -- income derived from "fun" -- seems a likely source. And casino revenues would be parceled out among an array of needy entities ... millions of much-needed dollars. Opponents like Rep. Ruth Balser point out that the enthusiasm for casino income "is the race to the bottom."
It's hard to remember a time -- which actually existed -- when lottery income did not represent an integral part of the state's means of paying its bills. Over time, it became, like the financial institutions the federal government has bailed out with taxpayer money, "too big to fail." Without what was once a little discretionary "fun," the state simply could not function. And casinos seem like an extension of that reliance on "fun." Leaving aside the addicts for a moment, it does seem like a vein worth tapping ... as long as there are people making enough money to spend in such a way. But these are hard times, so it's hard to see how that revenue stream is a lasting and reliable answer to significant woes.
Well, the cornerstone of the political world is re-election and perhaps tapping into "fun" will help do the trick.
But at a personal level, I wonder if an individual's assumption of or demand for "fun" isn't likewise a rickety underpinning. Relying on "fun" too often means shutting out or ignoring the times that aren't "fun." "Fun" as a birthright demand means that sorrow increases when the hard facts of not-fun come calling. Selling out to "fun" nourishes the merchant's lifestyle in which everything is a grasping compromise and looking in the mirror is an occasion for regret.
Is it sensible? Is it really fun? What happened to the laughter? At what point did full-throated delight become the burden of loss? When did the blessing become a curse? The merchant mind may ponder and feel trapped. Is it worth it -- knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing?
Perhaps it's time to get to work and investigate the assumptions of the past. Why? Because increasingly they don't seem to hold water and, more, they aren't a lot of fun.