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Fun - seriously!

I took a few courses in philosophy back in the early 80s, during my first abortive attempt at a
degree. I didn't last long, but I learned a lot. One of the things I learned is that philosphy is a
SERIOUS BUSINESS and any mention of fun means you won't be taken seriously.
Well, I take fun and Fun seriously. I try to approach the subject of Fun humourously, but
everything I have to say about it has been mulled over in my mind for years. Some of my earliest
writings deal with the idea of Fun, meaning I've been exploring this philosophy for about 27
years now.
Everything I have to say, I absolutely mean (except the obvious jokes - I'll try to remember to
put little warnings in before you get to them). I really believe in the things I tell you; this is my
philosophy of life, my daily motivator, and the reason that I, in spite of the desperate
circumstances and often hopeless history of my life, am a happy and positive person.
I know that sober philosophers will refuse to take me seriously. They will find what I have to
say frivolous and irrelevant, as they search the bottom of their beer glasses for a clue as to
whether they exist or not. We can discuss goodness, ethics, meaning, existence, knowledge...all
very fine subjects indeed. The problem is the remoteness of these subjects from the day-to-day
lives of 99.999% of the human population. If philosophers who've had millennia to come to
conclusions on these subjects still can't agree, how much are their ivory-tower ruminations going
to mean to Mr. and Mrs. Whack-a-chicken and family? We all live according to unspoken
definitions of goodness and ethical behaviour, whether we know it or not, but try to get us all to
elucidate our opinions, and we'll sit and smile at you for a long time without saying anything.
Fun on the other hand is something just about everyone can relate to. Even the most hard-
headed philosophy major has had some fun at some time. I have to acknowledge here the
dreadful plight of those who are unable to have fun, and their situation is indeed tragic, but just
about the whole human population of the planet lives for those precious moments of joy, bliss,
ecstasy or any of the other forms of fun out there.
Maybe they'd take me seriously if I discussed the importance of joy, bliss or ecstasy. Those
are more respectable than fun, which because it is a democratic ideal shared in by all, including
alcoholics, sex addicts and the mentally disabled, has a bad name. Religions that elevate the joy
that results from meditation or prayer denigrate the value of fun that results from sex or humour.
God, goes the party-line, wants us to be joyous, but not have fun. Joy good, fun bad.
Far from being the lowest form of positive experience, fun is the highest goal of every healthy
human who has ever existed, exists, or will exists. Fun is not a form of joy, bliss or ecstasy. Joy,
bliss and ecstasy are forms of fun. Goodness is a form of fun. Religious celebration is fun, prayer
can be fun, meditation should be fun. The problem for many is that sex, drugs and rock'n'roll are
also fun.
So what? Alcohol is a chemical that was invented by the same god who invented the birth of
children, the same god who would have no-one to worship him/her/it without the fun of sex.
How can the creations of the holy be unholy? Even if you don't believe in God (I don't and I do,
more on that later), the argument is relevant.
I can hear the serious voices of the serious thinkers as I sit here writing. Life, they say, is a
serious business. This is a dog-eat-dog world, where the lowest common denominator is often
the delimiter of conduct and behaviour. The world is full of misery and evil, and for us to spend
all our time in the pursuit of fun is immoral.
Nonsense. We are all, rich or poor, lucky or unlucky, human, and therefore motivated by
human desires and emotions. The worst-off dream of better, more fun lives, the best-off get to
live those fun lives. The fact that this is unjust is beside the point; the basic goal is to enjoy life
on whatever level we can achieve. The difference in the quality of fun is what those serious
thinkers are objecting to.
For that reason, we must add a qualifier to our idea of what is fun. Plain old fun is good, but
we can do better.
Think of this: 'everyone loves a party.' A commonly uttered truism that isn't quite true. I've
met a few curmudgeons over the years who seem to resent people having more fun than they are.
In my depressed times, I was one of them. My attitude was "who do they think they are, laughing
and partying? Don't they know what a miserable world this is?"
Sadly, even as the rabbi of the Temple of Fun, I am still occasionally prey to this pitfall. I
promise that I will let someone else deliver the sermon at these times.
But the general sentiment is true, if exaggerated. Almost everyone does love a party. The
question is why.
Fun alone can certainly be fun, but fun wants company. It's like the difference between sex
and masturbation. They're both fun, healthy and stress-relieving, but only a very small sad
minority would believe that masturbation is better. I'm not advocating orgies here - there are
limits involved in everything. My point is that what is fun for one is more than twice as fun for
two.
So what, pray tell, is a party, exactly? Well, I'll tell me. A party is a gathering of at least three
people who come together with the express purpose of having fun. A party is a communal effort
to raise the general fun-factor for the benefit of its participants. A party that does not do this is a
failure. The quality of a party is determined by the amount of fun its participants have.
There are many types of parties. Tupperware parties, birthday parties, office parties, dinner
parties, family parties, Inaugural Ball parties. There are all sorts of specialized parties - I've
always wanted to go to the Governor General's New Year's party (I live in Canada, where the
head of state, the Queen of England, is represented by a GG). The one thing they all have in
common is fun. Fun in the form of booze, sugar, bum-pinching, yelling woo-hoo, gossipping and
doing one's best to hook up, and a million other variants on the fun theme.
Now, fun is scalable. While it is not true that any party can be magnified to unlimited
proportions, it is true that a party of forty may be more impressive than a party of ten. It's all in
the fun that people can generate. I've always found that for each type of fun at parties there is a
critical level of participation.
Now let's translate fun into Fun. Fun is not just a party-state, it's a philosophy and a way of
life. And it also is highly scalable.
Say you, me and the dog are having a party. It's a backyard hootenanny type of party. If we
invite ten people, it'll be fun. If all those ten people are having fun, we will have more fun, you,
me and the dog.
If you, me and the dog are trying to have Fun, on the other hand, it's far more Fun to have as
many other people having fun as possible. Ten people having fun is a good start. Ten million
people having Fun is better. Knowing that 9 999 999 other people are sharing Fun with me is just
breathtakingly fun.
If even one of those people is not having fun, and therefore cannot have Fun, I am having less
Fun. Perhaps that person has to quit having fun for a while so she can go to work as a donut
engineer and enable others to have fun. She is not having fun, but she is helping the others to
have Fun, and is having Fun for this reason. Our Fun is her Fun. Her Fun is our Fun.
Your Fun is my Fun.
I want everybody to experience Fun, because that enhances my Fun. Fun is cumulative and
geometric.
I once went to an Earth Day gathering in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I have to admit
that I found a lot of the speakers naive, a lot of the philosophy unrealistic, and that a certain form
of self-indulgent snobbery veiled much of the proceedings - a sort of 'you're one of us or you're
against us' mentality that forbade the existence of a middle ground. In short, I supported the
general idea but not the particulars; I doubt that vegetarianism will save the world anytime soon.
But I chose not to let my reservations limit my fun. In a world where environmentalists were a
definite minority, a 15 000 person party in which all of them could feel at home was a huge and
well-deserved ball of fun, making up for a lot of doors slammed in faces. The crowd was joyous,
and I let myself be swept up in it. I let the waves of fun wash over me, and the 'good vibes', the
music and everything else lifted me to a state of Fun like I had rarely felt in my then-difficult
life. The parade marshals were looking for some big men to carry the huge plastic and wooden
globe that was their sceptre, and I found myself at the head of all those people, carrying my part
of the giant symbol up to the doors of parliament, cheered and encouraged by the crowd. I count
those precious moments as one of the highlights of my life, an all-too-brief blaze of glorious Fun
shining in my darkness.
I didn't have to agree with everything. I didn't have to believe in the package of
'alternate' philosophies that occasionally stretch credulity almost to breaking. I just had to be
there, and let all that Fun be my Fun, and give my own small part back. I would do it again in a
minute.
That experience taught me a lot. I don't have to agree with you to share this universe with you.
You live here with me, and if you are miserable, you limit my ability to have Fun. I want you to
have fun, and Fun. I want everybody to have Fun. That's why I'm the Chief Rabbi and Grand
Wazoo. If even one person at the World Party gets no cake, my party is not what it could be.
Back to the philosophy. We're talking about Fun, remember? fun is great, Fun is better (my
mantra). A whole world of people having Fun is best. If there is one starving baby, one lonely
middle-aged man, one cancer-victim, one mother whose son was stolen by war, or one You
having a bad day, I cannot maximize my Fun the way I want to. It is incumbent on me to feed the
baby, introduce the man to a nice girl, cure the cancer, comfort the mother, or buy you an ice
cream. These things will improve my Fun quotient, and in a lucky twist of fate, are also fun. Fun,
therefore, can be fun. Sometimes it isn't. Feeding starving babies may take every gram of
emotional strength you have, but in doing so you are giving the world Fun.
Therefore, we must have a broad definition of Fun. Fun is a state of fun which reaches it's
maximum potential when all may share in it. To reach the state of grace we call Maximum Fun
(or 'MaxFun'), Fun must be ubiquitous. I can certainly have Fun without you, but I can have
more Fun with you.
To reach this state of MaxFun, we must all participate in the doing of Good Things. It is
worth sacrificing a little fun (or even a lot) in order to reach MaxFun. I will gladly give up some
food to save the baby. I will gladly give up driving a gas-pig to save the environment, so people
get fewer cancers. I will gladly wear a poppy pin on Remembrance Day to make the mother feel
that even though she will never see her son again, she is loved and supported in her sacrifice.
That I don't believe her son should have been sent to war is beside the point.
Getting drunk on a Saturday night is fun, and sometimes necessary for the sake of mental
health. You have to have fun, to make having Fun worth the effort. But you can also do things
that are not fun, to achieve Fun. Life is the ongoing effort to find a balance.
In my next sermon, I will expound on my idea for how best to balance one's life in the pursuit
of Fun. I'll be delving into some serious philosophy. Don't worry: it's all in plain English. I will
be teaching you how to maintain a positive balance in your Karmic Bank Account, my prime
methodology of Fun.