The Fun Conundrum – Part 1

Does anyone else struggle to see the point of fun? I sound very boring to ask this, but I realise that I sometimes find having fun quite stressful!  With so much essential stuff filling our time, and with friends and family struggling with illness, heartache or other problems, having fun seems to be the first activity to scribble off the to-do list. I’ve experienced some truth in the ‘you’re only as happy as your least happy child’ statement and although I know I should feel a deep inner joy whatever my circumstances, I’m aware that even small disappointments or upsets really affect my mood.

There’s a big problem with all this. It’s the Summer Holidays!  I want to enjoy each moment and be who I need to be for my family. I also have a niggling feeling that God designed me to have fun. And you know where I’m heading next: fun often leads to friendship.  God definitely designed us for friendship and community.

I’ve started reading something to nudge me out of this party-pooping hole. A Little Book on Soul Care by Paul Francis promises to be a practical guide, ‘showing how areas such as friendship, forgiveness, vulnerability and laughter all contribute to the wellbeing of our inner life… Paul does not take you on a guilt trip, but a journey that will encourage you and help you in your walk with God.’

In this little book, a lovely story called ‘The Monk and the Snowman’ is used to illustrate how having fun is an authentic part of our spirituality:

A few years ago, my wife, Jane, and I were in France. We went to an exhibition of photographs of monasteries from around the world…all taken from a hot air balloon.  We came across one that made me laugh out loud.

It is of a monastery in Northern Italy and it’s obviously winter as the ground is covered in snow. In the middle of a large quadrangle, there was a big white blob, which I realised was a snowman.  A black squiggly line led up to it showing where someone had rolled a ball of snow to make him.

I just loved the thought that somewhere in Italy there is a monk who makes snowmen.

If I’m honest, that’s now what I normally think imagine when I think of a monk.

But I also laughed because that monk is me!  When it snows, I too, love to make snowmen.

The problem was that I’d grown up in a Christian culture that clearly taught that having fun was not part of the spirtuality of a leader.

But after a long journey, I have learned that it really is part of my spirituality.

Being spiritual is not simply about Bible reading, meditations and prayers.*

What do you think Jesus did to have fun?  He liked to be with little children – they would have been fun to hang out with.  He went to parties and must have been so much fun to listen to.  He came up with some pretty funny images when he was making stories come to life.

Maybe I’m not alone in struggling with the whole concept of fun. It’s been well-documented that the pictures we share on Instagram make us look to be having fun. But there’s plenty of us subconsciously assessing activities, friends, and food as to how they’d come across to our followers. Philosophy students of the future – rather than answering questions about trees falling silently in a forest – might be debating whether a social gathering or night out actually happened if it didn’t appear on Instagram.

Having done a bit of a survey about this, it is also apparent that we struggle with the concept of fun because we have to provide, manage and oversee it.  Entitled kids step aside – if you don’t enjoy it, tough!  Let’s stop being such control-freaks about fun.  In fact, maybe I should chill out and stop trying to facilitate ‘fun’.  That fount of inaccurate knowledge, Wikipedia, says that ‘fun is an experience often unexpected, informal or purposeless’.  So there’s my answer – fun is pointless and that’s the good thing about it!

So how about a silent pact? Do you fancy joining me in a month of informal, unexpected, impulsive, silly, fun? No need to document it to prove to everyone else that you’re having fun. And if you’ve got any fun-loving advice, we’d love to hear from you!  Happy holidays!

*A Little Book on Soul Care, P. Francis, pp. 10-11

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