Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Why Not Just Have Fun?
We recently had an interesting conversation with a colleague (who we would label mostly absurd), who posed the following question: "Why we don't all just have more fun? Why do we all work so hard?"
Obviously we have similar sympathies, but to us the important assumption is that somehow some other activity would be "more" fun. This is something we have discussed in the past--the concept that certain activities being preferable to others is nothing more than a human construct based entirely on genetics and prior experience. (Put simply, we like sex because the genes from ancestors who enjoyed sex are considerably more prevalent than genes from those who didn't.)
But of course, some things are more fun. Aren't they?
As we mentioned in our last post, we have been eating a vegan diet recently, not because it is healthy, but rather because it occurred to us that to do so would be an interesting way to shed part of our identity (our status as a big eater of meat). And it has been an interesting experience. In fact, we find ourselves at least as happy eating this way, and perhaps (for the moment) even more so.
Being "happy," or finding something "fun," is something of a misnomer, as it takes something subjective and tries to make it objective. It is actually quite fascinating how we all do this without realizing it. Consider the vegan example. We, and virtually all of our friends, eat meat. We think vegans are, to be honest, a bit odd. And yet, billions of people (some of whom, we must assume, fit the definition of "happy") eat this way today.
Just about everyone we know has had a similar reaction to our experiment. "Wow - I could never do that." "No meat? Why would you want to do that?" And so on. And to us, that is the appeal of the project. Not the reactions, of course, but our own similar feelings when we first considered it. We knew it was so far outside our comfort zone as to seem ridiculous to those who know us...and that's exactly the point! We assumed that "we" could not be happy eating a vegan diet, but never stopped to consider the absurdity (pun partially intended) of this position. Is there something that makes our dietary preferences "better" than people who don't eat meat? Are "we" different in some way that makes our happiness contingent on eating meat?
The more we get wrapped up in the illusion of the "I," the more we get set in whatever ways we have, the more difficult it is to believe none of it matters. How can I ever die? Look at the reputation I have! As Steve Martin once said, "I'm somebody now!"
To being this full circle...fun is a subjective term, but we have deluded ourselves into believing it is objective. We somehow think our wants and desires are objectively preferable to those of others...even when we are confronted with hard evidence that others are just as happy doing different things.
The bottom line is we agree with our colleague, but differ on implementation (as it were). We do not need things or experiences to provide us with "fun." We are content to simply be here now.
Posted by . at 1:22 PM