Charlie's Blog: The Misery of Fun


The Misery of Fun

I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.

Philosophy seems like a waste of time and money. Tell someone that you have a degree in philosophy, and they will make jokes about careers involving french fries and drive thru windows. But the philosopher is better able to handle life than the unemployed STEM major who can't understand why he lost his well paying job to an Indian immigrant who works for half the pay. Math and science majors focus on how the world works, but they never ask why the world works and for what end. They just know they need money for high price gaming PCs and their ham radio shacks. For them, everything is done for the ultimate aim of fun. But there is a problem with fun. Fun is the precursor to destruction.

We learn this truth at a young age. As children, we turn to toys and play. These things provide fun. Then, they don't. Because evil is never satisfied, fun needs ever increasing sources of variety. So, the bored child turns to broken glass, rusty nails, gasoline, matches, and helpless animals to be tortured. Do all children end up going down this destructive path? No, they don't. Most children have parents who discipline their kids before these destructive tendencies begin or soon thereafter. But those impulses remain. We see this when these children become teenagers.

When kids hit the teenage years, their fun may turn to sports and pop music. But they will probably favor whiskey and cars that go really fast ending up wrapped around telephone poles. By college, depraved sex and drugs have entered the picture along with binge drinking and the bacchanalia known as spring break. Then, if they survive, they buckle down to a lifetime of misery as they grind out their work days for the Man. They may find respite from this misery by playing golf or watching televised sporting events. Or, they may turn to cocaine and the extramarital affair. Finally, they hope to earn enough to retire, so they can wrap up their miserable lives with a bit of fun at the end and hopefully not eat Alpo.

Now, my wife claims that I am being a Puritan on this topic, and there is an element of truth to this. Like the Puritans, I do not believe in fun. Here is what Nathaniel Hawthorne had to say about the Puritans:
...the Puritans compressed whatever mirth and public joy they deemed allowable to human infirmity; thereby so far dispelling the customary cloud, that, for the space of a single holiday, they appeared scarcely more grave than most other communities at a period of general affliction.
Puritans did not believe in having fun. Instead, they believed in doing work. This is how we got the famous Puritan work ethic. The problem with Puritanism was that its severity extended to the religious domain disallowing religious feasts and even the celebration of Christmas. This is why Puritan churches were so plain and drab, and Puritan sermons were so torturous as if they were relentlessly pounding a nail into your soul. Without a doubt, this was an error. But when it came to fun, the Puritans were entirely correct. Here's a bit of that Puritan wisdom from Richard Baxter:
Idleness is a constant sin, and labor is a duty. Idleness is the devil's home for temptation and for unprofitable, distracting musings; while labor profiteth others and ourselves.
Now, a Catholic may decry this sort of mirthless existence as being anti-Catholic, but it isn't. Here are the words of Saint Benedict on the matter:
Idleness is the enemy of the soul; and therefore the brethren ought to be employed in manual labor at certain times, at others, in devout reading.
The Puritans and the Benedictines are in agreement on this matter. Idleness leads to sin which is just another way of stating my thesis that fun is the precursor of destruction.

The antidote to fun is work. Virtually no one will dispute me on this because everyone seems to agree that work is no fun. But this is not entirely correct because it implies that work is not satisfying. The reality is that fun is not satisfying. If it was, it wouldn't lead to so much destruction.

If fun is the precursor to destruction, then work is the precursor to construction. When we work, profitable and fruitful endeavors flow from this activity. Aside from the frustrations that come from work, work is probably the most pleasurable thing you can do with your life. If work is so awesome, then why do people hate it so much? It comes down to one's attitude.

People hate work because it involves submission to rules, schedules, cooperation, and being obedient to the will of a boss or a customer or just one's own needs. The hatred of work is rooted in rebellion. We are obligated to work, but we are not obligated to play. We hate this obligation, so we hate work.

The rebellion and hatred of God is hidden in the rebellion and hatred of work. This is why people of a religious bent enjoy work while those without that religious orientation despise work. In choosing fun, they celebrate this rebellion. You can see this sort of rebellion at something like Burning Man which ends the fun with a rite of destruction in defiance of God.

Fun ends in destruction and misery. The detritus of it all is left for others to clean up. The fun people go home to nurse hangovers or wake up in jail.

Certainly, there are ways to have fun that don't lead to destruction. It is possible to have fun in this way. You can dance or compete in a sport or play a game or enjoy some music. But all of these fun activities require rules and structure which eventually looks like work.

Punk rock is more fun to play than classical music but far less satisfying even after you have smashed your guitar to pieces. Likewise, slam dancing is more fun than ballet even after someone has knocked out some of your teeth in the melee. There is simply no satisfaction in destruction.

The opposite of work is not fun but rest. Rest is simply the contemplation and enjoyment of the products of our labor. It comes when a pianist listens to his own recording of a Bach composition. It comes when a poet reads his own poems. It comes when the chef can finally sit down and eat his own dinner. Work and rest are linked together.

The path of work is better than the path of fun. But precious few people get this. They have such a poor attitude towards work that they find no delight in it. This is because of that fundamental anger towards God. Yet, the joy of work can be experienced the moment someone puts away this rebellion.

Frustration in work is the price we pay for our rebellion against God. Just as we frustrated God's plan for us, God allows frustration in our plans and our work. Yet, you will find these frustrations become lessened as you submit more willingly to God's will. The key is to keep working despite these frustrations. By enduring the frustrations and offering them up to the Almighty, we pay our temporal debts and fill our eternal treasure chests. What was a curse becomes a blessing.

The way to end the misery of fun and find the pleasure of work is to do more work. Just keep at it. Forget the vacation. Forget the holiday. Forget the retirement where you spend your golden years playing shuffleboard and filling your diaper. Just stick to working as much as you can for the benefit of yourself and others and for the glory of God. As miserable as this may sound to you, you will find the greatest pleasure and satisfaction in this lifestyle.

What about hobbies? You will find the best hobbies are just different forms of work. Gardening is a good hobby along with woodworking. Painting, playing music and even writing a blog on the internet are all constructive hobbies. The worst hobbies are activities like collecting things. Collectors merely accumulate the work of others and show an underdeveloped mind. They can't do their own work, so they become mere spectators in life instead of engaged participants.

What about rest? Certainly, everyone needs a break. But the sweetest rest comes when it is earned. A day spent in activity will give you greater sleep than a day spent in idleness. True earned rest is the second half of the joy of work.

Fun is the precursor to destruction. Work is the precursor to construction. I don't expect all of my readers to get this wisdom. This is why those philosophy majors have a leg up in life even if they are reduced to flipping burgers for a living. What makes a thing joyful or miserable comes down to what we think about it. We merely have to change our minds to access this joy and pleasure. Most people can't and won't do this. They exchange the pleasures of work for the misery of fun. And they don't get why they are so dissatisfied in life.