Sunday, February 3, 2013

Serious Fun versus Having Fun Being Serious

A question that's been in the back of my mind in recent months concerns the difference between serious fun and having fun being serious. I think the difference between the two can help determine whether the way each of us lives life is via 'will power' (asceticism) or 'wisdom power' (the way that the Buddha taught).

By suggesting we have small desires I don't think Buddha meant that people shouldn't have fun. Rather I think he meant we should live in such a way that desires don't get so big that they're unattainable. Desires and goals never end up being what they're cracked up to be anyway, even if we attain them. It's better to do what we can to appreciate the present moment.

From what I've observed, when people approach life from an ascetic perspective, 'fun' runs the risk of being of the binge variety and risks causing headaches and other damage. In other words, it's not fun. Unless bragging rights, ego aggrandizement, and following in other people's footsteps is what qualifies as fun. For myself, I can say it's not.

Speaking for myself, even though I believe in wisdom power and would prefer to live my life that way, I think I've spent much of my life living from an ascetic perspective. It's what I was taught. Plus, since my intelligence is less of the classical variety and rather something else that is less readily measured I've had to work harder than most to get to where I was in life. When combined with the fact that I tend to drop off my own views and be overly patient with people, I think I've lost my sense of what 'fun' is, which is a strange feeling. These days I even have a difficult time determining whether people are kidding around or being serious.

Which approach is more beneficial and easier to learn from? Whether in the elementary school classroom or in college, teachers know that students learn more readily when having fun in the process. Comedians of today and court jesters of ancient times are and were able to point to partial, if exaggerated, truths that others could not. (As an aside, I wonder how many court jesters of ancient times lost their heads?)

What is fun? For myself, I can say that these days sitting and staring at a wall or going for a walk are as much fun as anything else. Although I will say that too much of anything is liable not to be fun -- which is another way of looking at what Buddha may have intended with 'small desire'.

One way or another, life goes on.


gniz said...

I appreciate this post.

Sometimes, the thing that has been hard and taken me the longest to achieve, is the thing that means the most to me.

And that thing--whatever it might be--has been totally worth it, despite whatever struggle it has entailed.

Anonymous said...

Been doing a lot of work with the Pali Canon and Shakyamuni wasn't big into laughter. When discussing right speech, as a matter of fact, he specifically says "humor" is a non-starter.

Best wishes!
Keith from Bloomington

Happi said...

Hi Aaron –

Thanks for your comment.

I’m unaware of achieving anything and I guess with luck I’ll manage to continue not achieving for awhile.

By the way, I think Bodhidharma would have found himself another nearby cave to finish his nine years of sitting in. He seems to have been a somewhat grouchy character at times.

Happi said...

Hi Keith –

It’s wonderful to hear from you.

Not sure I’ve read what you’re referring to, but the term “poisonous humour” has been interpreted as referring to ignorance. Plus, plenty of humorous stories, as well as violent ones, can be found in the Pali Canon, the Jakatas, and koans. Without doubt though, humor can be unkind and hurtful and is often either at the expense of self or others, so it’s easy to see how humor could qualify as ignorance.

A lot of communication these days contains humor though. Indra’s net and our lives and efforts within it are hopelessly tangled, so humor is a way to open up and release some of the tension and frustration that results. I think it’s good to take the time to question what humor is pointing at to determine whether a more productive and kinder way exists to address the same issues.