When we mistake fun for joy
"Life without fun isn't worth living!"
"Hearing about the state of the world isn't fun!"
"To live I must ignore the state of the world!"
This equation is ridiculous on its face, but this line of reasoning is often marched out to defend one's right to selfish myopia. But, is it really in our self interest to believe it? I don't think so.
In the name of lightheartedness and fun such an attitude attempts to enshrine the avoidance of empathy and the trivialization of connection; not only with the plight of others, but with one's own emotional and ethical well-being. When we talk about the dangers of denial, we tend to focus on the external dangers it exposes us to.
"Hey! I don't have a drinking problem!"
"I've smoked for thirty years, why should I stop now?"
"That dark back-alley is a short cut!"
"Why shouldn't I text and drive, I've never had a problem before?"
These denials seem to endanger their holders by leaving them open to external threats: liver disease, lung cancer, mugging, traffic accidents. What if they dodge the bullet? That's what we count on when accepting the risks of denial. We wager our lives on the chance our unrealistic assessment of our own personal risk will win out. If we miss being caught out does that mean we're home free? I don't think so.
No matter what the details, every demand to be an exception, our refusal to accept that a reasonable assessment of cause and effect applies to us, puts us at war with our own instincts and our organism's sense of self-preservation. This has consequences. This splits the self into opposing parts, one trying to make sense of our world and find a path through life's contingencies, while the other is rejecting that deeper self and daring to live out of touch.
Putting on a blind fold and stepping into traffic will cause anyone an emotional toll as they struggle to pit capricious will against self-preservation. Still, in response to the immediacy of the peril – no matter that it's self-inflicted – we feel an adrenaline rush. To the numbed psyche this is as close to feeling alive as we can get. No surprise that manufactured risk-taking is such big business.
"Bungee-jumping is fun!"
Yes it is, but a reliance on such extreme thrills is a sign that we have lost the capacity for joy in our "normal" lives. The wager made by accepting the blind fall as a means of having fun, besides being a displacement activity, a toxic simulacra for true joy, opens us to the need to follow a terrible path rejecting empathy for others – while relying on a deus ex machina, a cell-phone summoned medi-vac helicopter and a well stocked emergency room as our own personal safety net.
Is this bad for us? I think so.
Our ability to connect with the world around us is tied directly to our ability to empathize. This goes very deep, especially when we begin to lose empathy for our own selves and fall into patterns of self-destructive "fun-seeking." We can't pick and chose our empathies, closing ourselves off to any feeling of connectedness can only be accomplished by systematically shutting off our capacity to empathize, even with ourselves.
A child without the experience, or development, to sort out the "facts-of-life" will jump in and out of empathy and selfishness; one moment crying over an imagined slight to a kitten, the next wishing her mother dead over some little battle of wills. He will pursue fun at all costs, but expect some more responsible guardian to protect him from his own excesses. Is this same attitude acceptable from an adult? Not acceptable as defined by some buzz-kill external authority, but to the self? I don't think so.
I would suggest that any demand that the pursuit of fun – "Happiness?" – is the quality that makes life worth living is a recipe for disaster. Not only for those dealing with the excesses of such a creed, but also to its adherents themselves. We are surrounded by the consequences of so many in positions of power, or more frequently now mere heirs to privilege, who feel themselves entitled. This dynamic drives so much of our power-dive to the bottom. The expectation that one's exceptionalism demands that the world accommodate to our whim, coupled with the concentration of the power to push our whims onto others drives the destruction that surrounds and threatens to engulf us.
"Isn't it it a downer to be so doomer?"
This is, at the heart, a disingenuous question; one that dares us to accept a corrosive and destructive existence – I can't call it living or being – to make us willing co-conspirators. It demands that we accept another's willful disregard for a developed and mature outlook, and that we join them in a nihilistic extended juvenalia. It's the common cry of the addict looking for enablers.
I don't know what to say to someone making these demands of me. I do know that the expedient of ignoring these attitudes, either trying to adapt around it and maintain "relationship" by avoiding confrontation; or cutting off, or refusing to develop, ties with those holding these views is, in the end, unproductive.
We struggle to comprehend the avalanche of duplicitous self centeredness that sweeps the developed world and threatens dark days ahead. We wonder at how far self-delusion can possibly go tied as it is to a pride in one's own ignorance. We marvel at the anger and viciousness ready to erupt at any moment when the gross entitlement of paranoiac elites huddled behind their willing goons and patsies perceive "threats" to their ongoing rampages. This appeal to the spoiled child within is one of the great accelerants feeding this growing conflagration. It keeps the deluded focused on their twisted sense of self-interest and immune to any attempt to engage with their humanity. It creates monsters out of ordinary people and ensures that those who survive the coming disasters will go on believing themselves wronged and ready to fuel the next round when given a chance.
It's not fun having to deal with these questions, but then, so it goes…