There’s something funny about the pursuit of fun

Phil Castle

In the interest of offering a momentary reprieve from what are justifiably more serious topics — among them pandemics, politics and who’s most likely to start at quarterback for the Denver Broncos — I’d like to change the subject and write about something else. Fun.

What is fun, really? We’re constantly encouraged to have it. More than a barrel of monkeys, if possible. Work should be fun. Weekends should be fun. And wedding nights? Well, those should take fun to a whole new level. Even if it isn’t supposed to be all fun and games, life clearly should include some fun. At least that’s the message.

Google fun, and the same terms show up: a source of enjoyment or pleasure, an amusing diversion. Yet, an image never accompanies the definition. Now, Google digestive system and follow the route from esophagus to rectum. 

Fun can’t be illustrated in a diagram — or explained in an online column, for that matter. Fun creeps up when least expected, tweaks a nose and then disappears without a trace.

Don’t look for fun in the obvious places. I’ve tried, and it’s seldom there. As a child, I searched candy aisles and amusement parks. When I was a bit older, I was certain I’d find fun at Disneyworld. What I discovered instead was too many Snickers upset my stomach. So do roller coasters. Disneyworld was fun, but also required waiting in lines. A lot. Older still, I looked for fun in bars. I recall fragments of my 21st birthday and drinking something that was orange, served in a pitcher and set on fire. Big mistake. Huge. And definitely not fun.

I’ve rarely had fun at special occasions, either. My high school prom was supposed to be fun. My college graduation was supposed to be fun, too. Holidays like Christmas and New Years are supposed to be fun year after year. The problem is, events hyped as fun free-for-alls infrequently are. And I’ve waited, disappointed, for the fun to begin.

Fun is funny that way. Because places and activities considered dull, even dreary, turn out to be fun. I’ve had fun listing the principal exports of Brazil on a geography test. I once inhaled enough nitrous oxide at the dentist’s office to giggle my way through a root canal.

Most often, though, I’ve enjoyed the most fun when I wasn’t trying to have any fun at all. I remember summer evenings spent riding bikes with friends in the small town in which I grew up. We didn’t have any plans or destination. We were just pedaling and talking until darkness fell and we had to go home. The start of school seemed like a million years away, and the break stretched ahead in an endless succession of carefree days. 

I’m fortunate these days to experience the same feeling of contentment in fishing with my father or interviewing an entrepreneur about their innovative efforts. Or, on those far rarer occasions, writing a well-turned phrase. Neither a picture nor a thousand words quantify the pleasure of those moments. 

It’s fun.

Phil Castle is editor of the Business Times. Reach him at phil@thebusinesstimes.com or 424-5133.