Someone who recently read my blog told me it was about telling people the most important thing in life is to have fun, no matter what. I was a bit stunned. I've taken great pains to make sure my words couldn't be misinterpreted that way.
I'm a writer by choice and career, so I've studied how to pick and chose your words to express what you mean—and at the same time, ideally not convey anything you don't mean—for fifteen years now. So hearing the content of my blog reflected back to me as exactly what I've been trying to avoid has to make me think.
Have I failed to communicate what I really mean here?
Looking back over my posts, I certainly don't see it. I strongly advocate responsibility and taking life seriously.
Or is it possible that the oppression of adults in this area is so strong, certain people will read their reactionary responses into what I write, no matter what I write?
So that merely to say: fun and play are good things to maintain in your life as an adult, will only be heard by some people as an adolescent cry to 'party hearty'? That seems more likely to me. I wouldn't have started this blog if it was on a topic everybody already agreed on, and if I didn't think I could do some good with it. My work in peer counseling and on ending oppressions since 1994 is what lead me down this path. As a creative person, and someone burdened by over-responsibilty as a child, I've fought to reclaim the good things that come from wonder, play and fun. I've seen how hard the push is to make grown-ups repudiate them in the name of feeling superior to children. And the damage done to us all by the idea that children are lesser to adults and that only kids have something to learn from adults. Just like the idea that it's only woman who have something to learn from men, when the reverse is true for both.
Nowhere do I ever say that life is all about having fun and that that's the most important thing. I would consider that something akin to hedonism, which goes against the grain of hopefullness and the deep seated belief in human goodness that I do believe in. Hedonist don't think life is about fun, they believe life is so bad (it sucks and then you die), that in response they act on the idea that pleasure is the only thing worth pursuing. That's all about a form of hopelessness, and a deep seated despair of human nature. This blog is about holding out some truths that sometimes get obscured by oppression. That FCI, wonder, and play are not things you have to give up in childhood in order to become a 'real' adult, and that being an adult doesn't have to mean letting yourself be ground down by responsibility and productivity to the point of 'clouded brow' bitterness and resentment.
Here's someone who puts it really well:
Whether you agree or not, thanks for reading my posts. And your comments are welcome.
“I have never been convinced there's anything inherently wrong in having fun.”
— George Plimpton
George Ames Plimpton (1927-2003) was an American journalist, writer, editor, actor, and gamesman. He is widely known for his sports writing and for helping to found The Paris Review.
Clearly not a frivolous guy who never grew up and never became a productive adult citizen [smiley].
I would even dare to say that if you play for the fun of it, laugh out loud, and are openly awed by sights and sounds you enjoy, you're living life right, not acting childish, and you don't need to grow up or settle down or act your age or any of those comments people throw at you to make you stop.
Those comments are about them, not you. They were shamed into giving up fun, and so it's very hard for them to see you having it. You can see it in the deep frown and hear it in the chiding tone of voice. Some people would rather hit you than let you get away with having a good time in front of them - that's how hard it is for them. In that way, it's been passed down from adult to youth, and from older kid to younger child. But no one needs to give up having fun.
Even when it's people with good intentions who try to stop it, the truth is - having fun, and showing it, is not the problem.
The problem is that people confuse play with irresponsibility. They think laughter comes from mindless inattention, and that to be light is to be incapable of taking things seriously. Are people who laugh less intelligent? Less responsible? Less capable? No. But they are happier. Instead of cutting fun out as you grow up, you just get to add being more responsible and more thoughtful in to the mix.
The last barrier we face is the inner voice, the one that is you telling yourself to stop it. if you've faced harassment and humiliation before, or you've seen other people get hit with the deterrents, you probably learned to make sure you don't do it in public. But trading a lifetime of joy, laughter and delight to protect yourself against periodic, empty humiliation isn't a win. Being ready to laugh and enjoy life is.
See what happens when random people let themselves have a bit of playful fun in public after encountering a ball pit set up on a city street downtown:
Childish. How did that ever come to be a dirty word? To be like a child isn't a bad thing.
Most adults would love to get back some of the enthusiasm, happiness and carefree feeling they had as a child.
But what children do, you're not supposed to: play.
You can be accused of playing, like it's a crime. And you're supposed to feel humiliated. Belittled. Less than. And you're supposed to stop doing it right away. Stop doing it for good. And then stop other people you see doing it from doing it. Only certain types of grown-up fun are acceptable now, and it's a pretty short list, many of which are things that are also – and actually – bad for you.
And then we wonder why we're so tired, and unhappy and bitter. Why so much of the joy has been sucked out of life and our days can feel so monotonous and unsatisfying. A lot of adult 'play' is really more about drowning out dissatisfaction than doing something we enjoy.
Play is one way we learn – by trying new things and experimenting, by using our imagination and being creative. Different parts of our mind are engaged and active, there's endless variety and change, we get a break from over-thinking and worries, and we get all this while doing something we like, smiling, laughing and having a good time.
What a horrendous crime you'd be committing by having some innocent fun!
Amber Michelle Cook's Blog
A call to all grown-ups everywhere: Play!