August 2014 By Suma Varughese Never underestimate the importance of having fun. Not only does it give you important physical, and emotional benefits but it is also a sound barometer of your spiritual evolution, says Suma Varughese It doesn’t take much to have fun. Every child knows that. You only have to see a little girl skipping her way to the shop to carry an errand for her mother while humming a tuneless song, or see a little boy riding his bicycle while bouncing up and down on the saddle, to recognise that. Kids know that having fun is the most natural thing in the world. What fun to trample into puddles on a rainy day, to climb a gate or a tree, to follow the track of an ant, to chase a ball, to lie on the grass and gaze at the sky, to balance a stick on your nose, to stick out your tongue to see if you can touch your nose, to spontaneously run a race to see who comes first… And yet, how hard it is to do these things when we grow up. Perhaps of all the things that growing up snatches from us, the most precious casualty is our capacity to have fun. Somewhere in the precarious journey of growing up, the dents and bumps we have been dealt begin to weigh on our spirits. Responsibilities and duties settle like lead around our shoulders. The burning need to be accepted, or approved of, separates us from our instincts and natural way of being, and stick us into the straitjacket of conformity. Societal norms and demands constrict the life out of us. Sometimes, ambition consumes us and in its pursuit we throw away our capacity to have fun. Often, we wander into the bylanes of sadness, grief and depression and our sense of fun crumbles up and dies. There are a million adult ways of losing our ability to have fun. Kill-joys Architect and interior designer, Aruna Joshi, reminisces, “Growing up in a small town to a conservative family meant that fun was restricted to family events and festivals. I was not encouraged to have fun on my own or with friends. It is only when I got married and came to Mumbai that fun became an active part of my life. In Mumbai, I made many friends and developed an active social life. In fact my definition of fun today is being with friends and having a great time.” Says psychiatrist Dayal Mirchandani, “Having fun is a natural instinct, but modern society makes you feel inadequate, particularly through advertisements. Fun then becomes what can be sold. Cricket is fun but not gilli danda because there is nothing there that can be sold. Also fun becomes about consumption. Look at the Bacardi ads. They are remodelling fun in ways which are consumption-oriented.” Dayal Mirchandani: Modern society commodifies fun Fun then becomes about conforming to someone else’s idea of a good time, once again causing us to lose touch with our natural instincts. This is true particularly of the younger generation, which takes its cues from the mass media and often interprets fun as wild partying, drinking, smoking, gaming, eating out at expensive restaurants, buying designer clothes, fast cars, romancing, and basically testing their limits at every level. For them, fun derives from the external world, and is equated with spending money and consuming things. Such pursuits can often end up in self-damage, or even in the damage of others.Thus the movement towards authentic fun often compels us to transit from the innocence of childhood fun, to the manufactured fun of immaturity, before returning once again to the innocence of mature fun. In an endorsement of the artificiality of consumerist fun, writer Tammara Griffiths interviewed a few people who lived high up in remote mountains and led a life of austere simplicity. One interviewee said, “The thing people don’t understand about the way life used to be is that in a self-sufficient community everyone was a creator (an artist), as well as a consumer. Now people are only consumers. People hardly know how to make anything anymore… we lived for the moment, experiencing the simple and the most profound pleasures of life. All the work had its traditions, festivals and songs which represented a culture, and naturally the church offered an opportunity for socializing and spirituality. Now people have lost the real pleasures in life. They think they can buy them but they have lost them.” Condemning clergy Even more devastating to the enjoyment of fun is the contribution of the priestly class. As Osho, the apostle of joyous living, says, “The only way to exploit man is to make him afraid. …How to make man so afraid? The only way is: condemn life, condemn whatsoever is natural. Condemn sex because it is the fundamental of life; condemn food because that is the second fundamental of life; condemn relationship, family, friendship, because that is the third fundamental of life – and go on condemning. Whatsoever is natural to man, condemn it, say it is wrong: ‘If you do it you will suffer for it. If you don’t do it you will be rewarded. Hell is going to descend on you if you go on living naturally’ – that is the message of the whole past –’and heaven will be given to you if you go against life.”’ He adds, “The priests have tremendously harmed the human heart, human consciousness. They have put this poisonous idea in man that life is something ugly. They have been teaching people how to get rid of life. I teach my people how to get deeper into it. They have been teaching how to be free of life. I teach how to make your life free. They have been teaching how to end this life, and I am teaching you how to move into it for eternity, on and on, how to live life abundantly.”One cannot deny that many religions have tried to find God by bypassing life. In the Middle Ages, monks made a virtue of self-torture through self-flagellation and wearing hair shirts. The Buddha himself joined hands with a band of extreme ascetics who practised living on one grain of rice and other such measures. Repressive moral codes have bound most members of the human community in chains. Hardly surprising that most of us have imbibed the message that having fun is at best frivolous, and at worst, positively sinful.In the household I grew up in, having fun was nowhere on the agenda. With six daughters to take care of and eventually marry, my parents were far too immersed in simply earning a livelihood and running the house to have too much time and energy for fun. Besides, our Christian ethos did not really endorse fun. Our lives orbited on the axis of duty. When my mother came to Mumbai to live with me, she was extremely understanding about my working late into the night, but partying late into the night? Now that was a different matter. It took us many years to arrive at an understanding that I was entitled to go out, see movies or plays, or have fun with friends. While activities such as drinking are banned in many faiths, the Pentecostal faith that my sister belongs to, looks askance at women wearing jewellery or watching television or cinema. And of course there are still many religions that hold women responsible for arousing lust in men. The sad part about kowtowing to dictats such as these is, it disables people from cultivating their discrimination, self-control or individual sense of right or wrong. They are denied an opportunity to grow and are required instead, as Osho says, to surrender their minds to the priests and allow them to run their lives. Unable to evolve, such people lead lives of enforced infantilism. Exit fun. Breaking barriers Fortunately for all of us, consciousness levels are rising and chains everywhere are breaking. The many despotic and authoritarian aspects of our culture are collapsing, whether it be dictatorial regimes, controlling clergy or gigantic businesses. Their collapse spells the birth of sanity and a fresh joyousness of spirit. Through the rubble of authoritarianism, many of us are finding our own feet, forging our own rules, and discovering the secrets of life and ourselves. In the process, we are learning to once again laugh, to be simple, to revel in the smallest things, and to enjoy every moment of life. Says Megha Bajaj, founder of Miraaya, and columnist at Life Positive, “Fun is when you are just yourself, not a care for the world, being in the present – flowing, completely happy, nothing to add and nothing to subtract from the moment. Fun is FUNdamentally important. What’s the point of living life if you are not enjoying it?” Brett C Hoover, author of the book, Comfort, wrote: “During my first year studying for the priesthood, the priest in charge of our novitiate told me he did not believe that Saint Peter would meet us at any pearly gates when we died. .. He said God would simply ask, “Did you have a good time?” … .If God went to all the trouble of setting in evolutionary motion a remarkable world, what sort of ungrateful creature doesn’t enjoy it? …I look around at the astonishing beauty of the world, the sheer blessing and gratuity of being alive. Who am I not to enjoy it? It does begin to feel like a commandment: ‘Thou shalt enjoy thy life.’”Fun then becomes an inherent part of who one is; it surges up from within and is always innocent and joyous. It is never vicious, self-damaging or other-damaging. Says Mumbai-based housewife, Kalpana Iyer, “Fun is such a big part of our family get togethers. No harm meant, no insinuations, criticism, just a whole lot of belly laughs. Old and young, whenever we meet, there is laughter and noise. It really makes us feel so revitalized and genuinely happy. ” Says educationist and poet Harvinder Kaur, “I think fun is happiness in a very real, non abstract sort of way. It is not preachy or philosophical. It is about happy interactio
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