For most of my adult life, I lived as a child in an adult body. I never grew out of the desire to play in a selfish way, to pack every day with something “fun” that took my mind away from the reality that I have a soul. Only when I came back to Christ have I begun to put away the childish notion of having fun.
The word “fun” is not found in the Bible. At no point did God command us to idolize fun, pursue it, or engage in it, yet I don’t have to look back many years to see that I elevated fun as a mainstay in my adult life. Fun is an unserious pursuit of pleasure, ease, whimsy, and irreverence that often involves entertainment, novelty, and laughter. The epitome of fun is the modern amusement park, of partaking in stimulating rides and games for many hours until one gets nauseous from overstimulation and extreme movements, yet we do not need to physically drive to an amusement park to duplicate its effect upon our souls, to spiritually drive far from all seriousness and only pursue things that give us a spike of dopamine and adrenaline, cheap thrills that distract us from our vital mission before God.
In 1982, Father Seraphim Rose wrote that if a society values fun, they are not a serious people [PDF]:
When [a modern] child becomes an adult, he naturally surrounds himself with the same things he was used to in his childhood: comforts, amusements, and grown-up toys. Life becomes a constant search for “fun” which, by the way, is a word totally unheard of in any other vocabulary; in 19th century Russia they wouldn’t have understood what this word meant, or any serious civilization. Life is a constant search for “fun” which is so empty of any serious meaning that a visitor from any 19th-century country, looking at our popular television programs, amusement parks, advertisements, movies, music—at almost any aspect of our popular culture—would think he had stumbled across a land of imbeciles who have lost all contact with normal reality. We don’t often take that into consideration, because we are living in this society and we take it for granted.
Fun is a relatively new idea that entered the world when material ease and comfort became idolized. If your material needs were easily being met, and you did not take your faith seriously, you would experience black voids of “boredom,” where the antidote was not serving others or communing with God but engaging in fun. The easier life got, the less we thought of God and the more fun we desired, until the only thing we desired in life was fun itself, the idol that is on full display in pure form within any major international city on Friday and Saturday nights. The apotheosis of fun may be the existence of a band by the same name who a decade ago sang about all the impious, drunken fun that we must enjoy.
My friends are in the bathroom getting higher than the Empire State
My lover she’s waiting for me just across the bar
My seat’s been taken by some sunglasses asking ’bout a scar, and
I know I gave it to you months ago
We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun
This song (i.e. work of social engineering) was extremely popular when it came out, and I know that because I had fun in the venues that played it, alongside other adult children who were totally missing the point of life and desperately needed to be reminded that our Creator has expectations of us that have nothing to do with fun.
Mentally, we have all struggled to shake loose a childish desire to enjoy ourselves without responsibility or seriousness. How often does it happen to you that, after a tough day at work or a particularly long Orthodox service, you want to clock out and “enjoy” yourself? You desire to unwind, relax in front of mindless entertainments, “take it easy,” drink and feast and engage in idle chatter. Instead of seeking a reward from God for our labors, we instead reward ourselves in instant time to the point where the length of fun we experience exceeds the length of true labor we performed. Surely, we will have our reward in the form of an alcoholic buzz, a laugh from an internet meme, or a feeling of pride when we let loose our tongue concerning others, but that’s all we will receive from our misguided pursuit.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. —1 Corinthians 13
In this verse, Saint Paul was referring to spiritual maturity, because during his time I imagine there were no adult children he encountered whose mission in life was to have fun. We’ve fallen so badly with our obsession to have fun and turn this life into a fit and a laugh that the early Church Fathers didn’t see the need to address that which didn’t then exist. To put it starkly, I have behaved worse than a pagan even though I was born after the revelation of Christ, and I am currently in the Orthodox Church and still must battle with my need to kick back and clown around like I were still a boy.
During moments when I’m engaged in fun, my tongue is inflamed, ready to commit sin, and I’m not thinking of God. I become temporarily hypnotized with the notion of pleasing my body with a cheap laugh, spectacle, or piece of gossip, and miss the mark when it comes to serving God. I don’t know how much longer I will live until I’m judged by Him at His Judgment Seat, but what a disaster if I were to leave this earth in the middle of having “fun”! There was a time for fun in my life, and that was childhood, but I am no longer a child, and so I must struggle to put the desire for fun behind me once and for all.
Read Next: Girls Just Want To Have Fun [Pre-Christian article]