hi.

Why modern spirituality should focus on fun instead of happiness

Everybody wants to be happy.  It's a goal ubiquitous enough to be worth mentioning in the United States' Declaration of Independence.

But as a metric for our spiritual progress through life, it lacks the hard edges of reality and depends wholly on squishy and changeable comparisons with ideals that probably only exist in our imaginations.

Also, I submit that happiness is strictly an internal state.  And as such, to evaluate our own happiness requires us to pull back from whatever we're doing and delve inside ourselves to see how our internal state matches up with our own personal fantasies of what happy people feel like.

Fun, on the other hand, is a ground-level assessment of the nature of our interaction with the world.  It lends itself more naturally to a binary evaluation; "Am I having fun?" takes less time to answer than "Am I happy?"  "Happy" has so much range and baggage attached to it that it warrants deep spiritual meditation to even be able to talk about it.

We have this feeling in our culture that being unhappy is somehow being unsuccessful as a person, and I would prefer to ditch any personal metric with stakes that high.  I will determine the success of my life on my deathbed.  In the meantime, I just don't want to be sad.

I happen to believe that I won't attain true happiness while my consciousness is attached to meat in three-dimensional space, but that's just me.  But even if you accept the possibility of of achieving happiness within your lifetime, it's still a bad primary goal to have, because there are no small wins along the way.

The best you could hope for would be to be emotionally advanced enough to be able to measure your happiness relative to some point in the past, and thus to gauge your progress so far.  But can you really remember exactly how happy you were last week? Don't you have to rely on records of some kind, probably using language to approximate your mental state?

Does anyone ever feel that language ever successfully conveys how happy or sad you are?

The pursuit of fun is so much easier.  It's not a lifelong quest with constantly changing goals; I don't think it should take longer than twenty-four hours.  Fun is a race that you can win every day.

If you are pursuing happiness, you have to "have faith" that happiness awaits you at the end of your lifetime-length pursuit.  If you are pursuing fun, you can skip from daily win to daily win without ever having to engage in a philosophical discussion.

Now, you anti-epicureans out there will be tempted to push me down the slippery slope from "fun" to "pleasure", but I'm not buying it.  I define pleasure to be strictly sensory, whereas fun, although every bit as transient, needn't involve the body at all.  The morality of my argument rests upon the fact that the best fun is had when it is not at someone else's expense.  Pleasure has no such restriction.

This post was motivated in part by this post on The Happiness Project about trying to have a "party" every day.  Initially, I laughed that piece off as idealistic hippie nonsense.  But the simple wisdom that enjoying yourself in simple ways is not inherently bad eventually triumphed over my deep-seated white cynicism.  I'm with you, Richard Florida.

So, like Todd Glass says when he introduces his podcast, just relax and have fun.  Trust that fun is good for you and that by accumulating a lifetime of fun you may wind up being a better, more functional person, and, dare I say, maybe a bit happier.

Partial list of artists who, when they were my age, had their best work ahead of them

Throwing it away