As we left the dock in our rented boat, the attendant said, “Have a fun day.” His words made me wonder what, exactly, the word “fun” means.
I believe that a word carries into the present an echo of its origins. The dictionary tells me that the origin of “fun” goes back to a word meaning to hoax, which suggests to me that the word “fun” connotes something unreal, or perhaps even deceptive. A fraud. As when the guy says, “I was just funnin’ ya!” When you are having fun, you are setting reality aside, and that pleasure you feel is some sort of hoax you are perpetrating on yourself. No harm in that, right?
When we “have a fun day,” we are temporarily setting reality aside, perhaps for some laughs, maybe some harmless excitement, maybe some novelty. Our grandkids have fun being dragged behind a boat. Some people (not I) have fun at wild parties, jumping up and down to loud music. Some people have fun doing a jigsaw puzzle, which is certainly not part of the serious Real World. I have fun playing Wordle on my iPhone, though few people would say that I look like I’m having fun. In fact, Kim tells me that I rarely appear to be having fun. I don’t jump around a lot.
Kim was able to rattle off a long list of activities that she sees as fun, from chasing butterflies with her camera, to exploring a new place, to trying a new recipe. But sitting in the woods, drinking in all the beauty, she sees as deeper than fun. It’s spiritual. She describes the rock and garden area that we created just outside our window as her “altar.”
“Fun” is a shallow sort of amusement, as distinguished from “joy,” which seems to me deeper, even spiritual. Kim’s doing her artwork is more than fun. Being affectionate with your partner is more than fun. Making music is more than fun. People don’t attend religious services because they are fun – but I may be mistaken about that. Activities that are fun are often described as “lighthearted,” which is perhaps a kinder term than “shallow.” Who wants to be heavyhearted? But my point here is that there is a difference between fun and enjoyment, and you can sense the difference if you are aware of the quality of your experience. Of course, if you are having fun you are probably not paying that kind of analytical attention.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Probably as true as most proverbs, but what’s interesting to me here is the word “play.” When you are playing – a game, a sport, a dramatic production – you are creating an alternate reality outside the normal, non-play flow of your life, and this play is (or can be) fun. If you are as fortunate as I was, your work can be very enjoyable, but it was not “fun” unless I’d done some sort of bit to throw my students out of routine classroom comfort.
So – did you find it fun to read this little essay? I didn’t think so.
And what do you do for fun? Is the experience anything like what I’ve described? It might be fun to share for next week’s blog post . . ..
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