In our era of high vigilance, emergency measures and vast decrees, Walter Kirn makes the case for fun.
I am of an age that I remember, like it was yesterday, the joyful release we felt under President Reagan after the dreadful malaise and needless sacrifices to incompetence under Carter. You had to be in lower Manhattan during the Statue of Liberty Centennial to see America at its joyful best. Truly magical. No other way to describe it. Celebrating who we are with each other.
So maybe the real truth is “Being a woke Democrat: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” Vote wisely this time. Being under the thumb of a vile, vindictive, senile imbecile is no way for a free people to live.
I’ve been trying to improve my 8 year-old son’s reactions to negative emotion, and one technique has been to emphasize the necessary duality of happiness and sadness--there can be no mountain peaks without valleys in between.
One could make a similar claim about fun and seriousness. A hyper-politicized society is serious all the time, and ideas that appear to any sane person as cruel jokes--from closing playgrounds to the “Final Solution”--face no resistance.
Fun allows us to feel the distinction between what matters--what deserves seriousness--and what does not. As Elbert Hubbard admonishes us: “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.”
A delightful read! Top Gun Maverick was a great film! Fun is subversive, and in these autocratic times where authorities globally are asphyxiating the freedoms of people, perhaps fun is the only small way to fight the power.
What a great writer; glad for the introduction. We do live in a world of curmudgeons and miserable spinsters who absolutely endear Menken's remarks, and I don't wonder that our young people are in the shape they're in. Laughter and levity are out, victimhood and screaming are in. When I was quite young, I remember my normally diffident father muttering, "old battle ax!" after an encounter with an older and severe aunt. I laughed so hard I nearly wet my pants.
I have always been a connoisseur of fun. One of the great disappointments of my life was growing up and realizing how completely “not fun” adults are. My children gave me a respite, but alas, have grown into (mostly) responsible adults. Now I wait for grandchildren to be silly and goofy and just have fun
“It’s a form of forgetting”
I like that observation. Fun is truly enjoying the present moment without the future or the past weighing on your conscience like they usually do.
Nothing captured the oxymoronic idiocy of federal Covid policy than its #AloneTogether campaign. I can still hear some twenty-something with her chirpy voice telling me over the airwaves to commune with my family and neighbors by hunkering down in isolation. It crushed our collective souls. We as a nation need a doubled-over, breath-sapping, knee-slapping, pee-your-pants laugh.
'One thing I learned early about fun is that having it on command is hard.'
Well. this is where alcohol, drugs and hookers come in. They are the essence of fun on demand, but come with a price.
But his point is spot on. It took me a while to learn this, but much of what makes something fun, is when a fun experience is unexpected. A restaurant you visit where everything is just so perfect, and you have wait staff who are totally connected with you, twists on cuisine you haven't experienced. But when you go back, it's totally different.
Real fun, imho, also has a bit of serendipity, that can't necessarily be replicated.
We've also seen the fun of 'humor' become verboten if it has the slightest risk of offending someone's sensibilities. We now live our lives in fear of saying something that could be construed as a 'microaggression' and be branded as one of those 'ists'. Conversations are far less fun.
Growing up in the 60s/70s, I witnessed society moving from a Victorian prudishness, to a fun, uncensored period of expression, but now the pendulum seems to be swinging back hard. Who ever thought the young folks would be behind that shift.
I'm reminded of an incident in my high school biology class. The live frogs had arrived in a box and our teacher asked some students to help get them into the holding tank. Soon there were frogs jumping everywhere and bedlam ensued. "Shut the doors!" Some of the girls were standing on their chairs shrieking. Some of the kids were laughing and yelling. I was helping the boys catch the frogs. It was the most fun I had all sophomore year.
I need to release my inner hamster!
The great gateway to communal fun is of course music. The other night, after my daughter Kate got married, we had a small party at our house (yes, Kate is part of a growing trend of the engaged who have small services with a justice of the peace, then wait a year or so to have the huge celebration).
Music has become even more fun. Now, with an Alexa and a subscription to a music service like Spotify or Amazon, anyone in a group of people can instantly call up any song ever recorded. The fun begins when one song inspires another, then someone else is inspired to play another, and so on.
In the evening after the wedding, songs were being called and played, with the joy of recognition and the loosening of the “uptightness” gestaldt about which Mr. Kirn spoke.
Then the sweet spot hit. Kate’s friend Suze put on an anthem of their generation, “You Oughtta Know” by Alannis Morrisette. The mood all of a sudden became taut with a kind of disbelief, almost fear, like the pulling tight of the parachute. “No!” was cried by several millenials, as eyes locked. By the time the chorus came around, everyone was synchronized into one giant bubble of Superfun intensity, delirious yet focused, feeling Alannis’s angst together in an enormous collective catharsis.
It was fun.
Besides their political differences, fun is another dividing line between progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans. Generally speaking, radical progressives are angry about everything from systemic racism, income inequality, climate change activism, policing, criminal justice system, abortion, transgender issues, white privilege, threats to our democracy, ultra-MAGAS, Israel's settlements, etc. etc. Conversely, conservatives are happy, fun loving people who adore America and are proud of our history, entrepreneurial spirit and traditional values. Celebrate July 4th with friends and family at the backyard barbecue, enjoy the fireworks and have a big smile on your face knowing we live in the greatest country in the world. God bless America!
Thank you for making me smile, reading this was fun.
The best movies I ever saw in the theater were Fatal Attraction, Home Alone and My Cousin Vinny because the audience was completely engaged in either total fright, like at the end of F.A., or just laughing hysterically at the other two films. Seeing a great movie in the theater is such a wonderful experience that was lacking these last two years and I am so happy it’s back. Have a great weekend, everyone.
“Fun is self-serving.”
Haven't we been taught from the age of language, around two, some of us more relentlessly than others, that selfishness is wrong? Maybe we should remember why it felt so good when we learned to shout “No!”
There is nothing more subversive and selfish than fun. Has the culture gone far enough down the slippery slope that we are starting to question the logic of the campaign that has been telling us since 1957 that Ayn Rand was wrong, Atlas is not Shrugging?
You may think this is a joke, but in 1966, my father handed me a thick book on a three-day loan from the New York Public Library, saying, “Here's a book by a crazy Russian lady you might enjoy.”
I had just returned from a summer in Cape Cod.
“1,086 pages! I can't read this in three days!”
“Don't worry about it!”
I was 19. Ayn Rand saved my life. If you do the math, you'll realize I'm now 75. My life was never the same. My handwriting changed. My mother never forgave my father.
So here I am this week in Washington, D.C., the belly of the beast at OCON 2022, the annual meeting of people who celebrate and study the works of Ayn Rand. Yes, the dreaded iconoclast, atheist, writer, and philosopher whom everyone hates and fears by proxy.
OCON is the acronym for Objectivist Conference. And I have to laugh when a tongue-in-cheek article says that fun is not individual, self-serving, and the fuel that spiced my days when I got old enough to distinguish between danger and imposed mores.
Nothing can be more subversive, more satisfying to the ego, and more life-affirming than fun. Maybe good sex or seeing a plan come together would also qualify.
The airport PA system announced on Thursday when we flew in that “Masks are now permitted to be optional.”
Masks “optional by permission” (LOL) just days after the 6-3 court majority overturned Roe, the one overt decision that saved my mental health when the draft killed, maimed, or deranged the young men of my generation. Back then, it was selfish to think self-sacrifice under government command was wrong.
Ayn Rand taught me to recognize right from wrong in 1966. Still no regrets. Maybe it's time for fun-starved humans to consider Atlas Shrugged with minds open to a different path, the path most of us abandoned when we were two, or indeed by school age (but that's another story).
Why was I receptive to Ayn Rand’s ideas? One reason might be my grandmother, “Nanny.” She never said no.
I could hang upside down on the monkey bars when I was four, and Nanny would qvell. When other kids' mothers scolded her, “How can you let her? She could fall!” I heard Nanny say, “She won't fall; she's a monkey.”
Life with Nanny was pure fun. I loved both my parents, but I used to play verbal tricks on them a lot. Nanny was the only person in the world I trusted completely.
Nanny died in 1961. By 1966, I was lost, confused, and engaged to a man who accused me of “using too many big words.” When I read The Fountainhead in Provincetown, I was not overly impressed. I didn't want to be an architect, and the sex scenes horrified me. But the first thing I did when I got home after Labor Day was to break my engagement.
When my father handed me Atlas Shrugged, I recognized the author’s name. I remember being impressed that Ayn Rand was a woman.
“The role of philosophy is to teach you how to enjoy yourself and live.”
--Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
That's what Ayn Rand did for me and is still doing.
This was a fun read. And fun can come out of almost anything. Working a customer service shift at a big box store with a young woman 1/3 my age, we were absolutely slammed by a horde of people all needing something different NOW. It was dizzying at the same time it was overwhelmingly mindless. We had no time to think. We just did what we were trained to do. When the rush was quite suddenly over, I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. My young co-worker turned to me smiling and said, “Well that was fun.” I laughed, my spirits immediately lifted. It WAS fun. Customer service is fraught with problems. Both customer and management must be satisfied. Doing a difficult job at high speed and knowing you did it right is satisfying and, taking a clue from my young co-worker, it became fun.
Thank you for this article. It cheered me up. It was fun.