I’ve written about this before, but it’s been a while and it wasn’t a very good post. This is an extremely difficult concept to explain.
Fun is a very new concept. People have always done things we would think of as “fun” — there have always been songs and stories and laughter. But it was never in the sense we view these things now. The word “fun” doesn’t exist in other languages, and its modern usage in English is only maybe two centuries old. You don’t see Shakespeare writing about “fun”.
You yourself probably could not give a real definition of it. What is fun? You can give examples of fun. You could probably say “doing something which you enjoy and makes you happy”, but that would include things like going to church or moving out of your parents’ house. Surely fun is more than just being happy.
It’s not that “fun” activities are wrong in themselves or that laughter is sin — it’s the underlying intention in pursuing these activities. To go to Six Flags with my friends and just laugh all day seems really perverse to me, or at least childish. I tell jokes and laugh, but I don’t make this a primary focus of my life. People “enjoy” reading this blog, but they certainly wouldn’t say it’s entertaining in the way a TED talk is.
A lot of pastors try to be as funny as possible, and people consider this a positive trait. Catholics threw away the old mass for something more interesting. Christians think church is about entertainment, because everything has become about entertainment.
Spot the difference?
Two days after writing this blog post, I came across a great explanation of this concept in the the book Spread the Word by Fr Michael Keiser, in which he explains that joy is essential to evangelism.
It is important to understand what joy is not. Joy is not fun. Fun is not a biblical word. Fun is often a self-centered attempt at entertainment and distraction. Christian life and worship are not meant to be fun-filled excursions to Happy Clappy Land in which we whip up the emotions to an abnormal high. That leads to let-down and burnout.
I don’t think in the category of “fun”. I barely think in the category of “entertaining”. These words are irrelevant. So what if something is fun? How does that at all affect its value?
We live in a society where we associate fun with goodness. We cannot understand how doing something to feel good could be a bad thing. We live life like it’s a math equation of good feelings. If your life had lots of good feelings, then you had a good life. If your life had a lot of difficulty, then it was all a waste. And nothing makes us more angry than someone who ruined our good feelings, even if through no fault of that person.
I did a search, and only six times did Shakespeare use the word “fun”. In only maybe one of those does it have its modern sense. This is from a playwright who frequently wrote about people playing pranks on each other.
From Romeo and Juliet:
Nay, an there were two such, we should have none
shortly, for one would kill the other. Thou! why,
thou wilt quarrel with a man that hath a hair more,
or a hair less, in his beard, than thou hast: thou
wilt quarrel with a man for cracking nuts, having no
other reason but because thou hast hazel eyes: what
eye but such an eye would spy out such a quarrel?
Thy head is as fun of quarrels as an egg is full of
meat, and yet thy head hath been beaten as addle as
an egg for quarrelling: thou hast quarrelled with a
man for coughing in the street, because he hath
wakened thy dog that hath lain asleep in the sun:
didst thou not fall out with a tailor for wearing
his new doublet before Easter? with another, for
tying his new shoes with old riband? and yet thou
wilt tutor me from quarrelling!
I’m not sure what that means. It seems to mean “full”.
Cassio. Welcome, Iago; we must to the watch.
Iago. Not this hour, lieutenant; ’tis not yet ten o’ the
clock. Our general cast us thus early for the love
of his Desdemona; who let us not therefore blame:
he hath not yet made wanton the night with her; and 1150
she is sport for Jove.
Cassio. She’s a most exquisite lady.
Iago. And, I’ll warrant her, fun of game.
Here it seems to mean “fond”.
Indeed the top of admiration! worth
What’s dearest to the world! Full many a lady
I have eyed with best regard and many a time
The harmony of their tongues hath into bondage
Brought my too diligent ear: for several virtues
Have I liked several women; never any
With so fun soul, but some defect in her
Did quarrel with the noblest grace she owed
And put it to the foil: but you, O you,
So perfect and so peerless, are created
Of every creature’s best!
I guess this could mean “fun” in our modern sense, but it still looks like “full”.
From the same play:
I told you, sir, they were red-hot with drinking;
So fun of valour that they smote the air
For breathing in their faces; beat the ground
For kissing of their feet; yet always bending
Towards their project. Then I beat my tabour;
At which, like unback’d colts, they prick’d
This seems to mean “full”, and it seems to have the connotation that they have been driven insane with the alcohol and valor.
Viola. No, good swabber; I am to hull here a little 495
longer. Some mollification for your giant, sweet
lady. Tell me your mind: I am a messenger.
Olivia. Sure, you have some hideous matter to deliver, when
the courtesy of it is so fearful. Speak your office.
Viola. It alone concerns your ear. I bring no overture of 500
war, no taxation of homage: I hold the olive in my
hand; my words are as fun of peace as matter.
Again it seems to mean “full”.
From the same play:
Go, write it in a martial hand; be curst and brief;
it is no matter how witty, so it be eloquent and fun
of invention: taunt him with the licence of ink:
if thou thou’st him some thrice, it shall not be
amiss; and as many lies as will lie in thy sheet of
paper, although the sheet were big enough for the
bed of Ware in England, set ’em down: go, about it.
Let there be gall enough in thy ink, though thou
write with a goose-pen, no matter: about it.
Once again the word seems to mean “full”, but if you squint a certain way it could have the modern meaning.
The idea of going to Six Flags and spending all day laughing — that’s kind of psychotic. There’s something deeply wrong with this idea that the right way to spend your day is to have unbridled, blinding happiness that makes you forget everything else, and that being able to afford this drunken happiness is the primary purpose in earning money.
If you could go back in time to your ancestors and say that they are building this amazing country so that you can sit at home and watch theater shows all day, and if they actually believed you, then they would think you were wasting this great gift they are sacrificing for. If you told them that most people plan their day around watching four hours of theater and that a third of the time involves advertisements, they wouldn’t have bothered to settle the frontier.
Fr Seraphim Rose said in a speech just a few weeks before his death:
The message of this universal temptation that attacks men today—quite openly in its secular forms, but usually more hidden in its religious forms—is:Live for the present, enjoy yourself, relax, be comfortable. Behind this message is another, more sinister undertone which is openly expressed only in the officially atheist countries which are one step ahead of the free world in this respect. In fact, we should realize that what is happening in the world today is very similar whether it occurs behind the Iron Curtain or in the free world. There are different varieties of it, but there is a very similar attack to get our soul. In the communist countries which have an official doctrine of atheism, they tell quite openly that you are to: Forget about God and any other life but the present; remove from your life the fear of God and reverence for holy things; regard those who still believe in God in the “old-fashioned’ way as enemies who must be exterminated. One might take, as a symbol of our carefree, fun-loving, self-worshipping times, our American “Disneyland”; if so, we should not neglect to see behind it the more sinister symbol that shows where the “me generation” is really heading: the Soviet Gulag, the chain of concentration camps that already governs the life of nearly half the world’s population.
This idea that you can go to Disneyland, “The Happiest Place on Earth”, and just have unrestricted happiness through the sheer manufactured wonder of everything, that the secret to having a fulfilled life is the tea cup ride — it’s sick, in every sense of the term. This isn’t right. This isn’t sustainable. You can’t build a civilization on this.
Again, this concept is extremely difficult to explain. You either see it or you don’t.
And this idea of fun saturates everything. Why do people have sex with people they have no intention of procreating with? “Because it’s fun.” I ask how fun is relevant, and they say that fun is fun and it’s good to pursue fun.
I tell people that I hate how I wasted my childhood playing Pokemon, and they say, “Oh but you had so much fun!” But frankly, I don’t know what else I would have done. My parents told us to play outside, but there wasn’t anything to do out there. We didn’t learn any life skills. We didn’t go camping. We just had fun, and we were all miserable.
It seems that we think the primary purpose of childhood is to have fun. There’s no sense that childhood is about preparing for adulthood, because we have no model for adulthood. Children go to school and learn to read and do math, but they don’t learn how to fix a car or prepare a pot roast.
All of this is insanity. I cannot believe that I have woken up in this society and found this to be the reality we live in. Out of all the times I could have lived, it had to be in the 21st century where people’s highest values is fun. That’s the real reason Whites are not reproducing. It’s cruel that I have to live and function and hold a job in a world where the highest value is blind laughter.
I listen to people talk about how they are planning their trip to a generic European tourist trap and have been to various other European tourist traps to look at European things, and I just feel sad for them that they have nothing else in life to live for. Their whole life is built upon waiting for their week’s travel to Ireland, and they would never sacrifice that week for anything. They don’t spend their money on their children — they spend it on plane tickets. If a pastor preached a sermon that all your excess money should go to the poor or to the missionaries, these people would leave the church.
When most people are diagnosed with a fatal disease, they break down. There was so much fun that they wanted to have, and now they won’t get to have that fun. They always wanted to see Rio, but they spent too much time at the office.
I would not care at all if I had cancer. Actually I would probably be kind of happy. I am certain I would not cry about how I never got to see or do something I always wanted to see or do. I cannot imagine having the vapidity of soul that upon learning that I’m going to die I would say, “Oh but I never went to Rio!”
When you’re dying, you’re supposed to reflect on how you lived your life and repent for anything you may have over-looked. Dying is supposed to be sobering and humbling. You are supposed to accept your powerlessness in the world. You are supposed to realize that all the things you thought were important will very soon not matter. To look heaven and hell in the face and decide that what really matters is the earth misses the point of the great gift of dying.
The joy of heaven will not be roller coaster joy. All true Christian joy is intimately mixed with sadness, particularly the relief from it. There will be joy in heaven, but there will not be laughter. Most people cannot understand how joy can exist without laughter, and therefore most people will not go to heaven.