Do you ever just want to get away from it all? Fly through the air, free as a bird? I sure do, and did a couple of times this summer (well, I got away for a vacation, I didn’t go parachuting). Recreation is an important part of life, and even if our culture overemphasizes it, it has its role. Figuring out Worry Free Ways to have fun is a priority for a lot of us, and even though there’s no hard and fast rules, there’s a few common sense ideas:
-Having Worry Free Fun means nobody else is endangered, seriously stressed or really humiliated by what we’re doing.
-Having Worry Free Fun means we don’t seriously endanger ourselves beyond normal limits. Going out the door is a risk, but risking death on purpose is something we should save for when we’re trying to save someone else’s life.
-Having Worry Free Fun means not getting so buried in something if it takes up all the time we’re not working or sleeping. Going to a fantasy convention a few times a year and pretending to be Conan the Barbarian is all right, provided we spend enough time with our family and friends in normal dress. Playing an online game is all right for a while, as long as we don’t get lost in a cocoon of alternate reality. There may be an exception if your entire family likes dressing up as barbarians, in which case doing it a lot of the time may be all right.
-Having Worry Free Fun means keeping our humanity, even if we’re pretending to be a Klingon. We should be Dr. Jekyll all the time: “out of control” can be dangerous and dumb, like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. “Out of control” is also dehumanizing, as I tried to say with my essay last week.
-Having Worry Free Fun means not wantonly destroying property unless it’s ours to destroy, and even then it’s probably questionable to deliberately wreck something to have a good time. Unless you like to drive Demolition Derbies. Responsible use of fireworks is all right, but seriously blowing things up is best left to the Mythbusters.
The biggest temptation is to equate “out of control” with “free to be ourselves.” Sure, there’s people and places where we feel the most free to say what we want, and do almost anything we feel like. It’s a characteristic of friendship and mutual respect to create spaces that can happen. However we should feel like we’re ourselves all the time, after all, who else would we be? There’s just times to be more diplomatic than others, but our work persona shouldn’t be that far from who we are. Courtesy and consideration should be a basic part of who we are: that shouldn’t be part of Work we clock out of when we clock out.
Indifference is never a virtue, and being “out of control” isn’t an inalienable right. Relaxing when we’re in a safe place isn’t particularly difficult, it’s relaxing when we’re under pressure that really makes life easier to cope with. If we’re not relaxed and comfortable when everything is going on in our lives, then no amount of time off or wild indulgence will really fix that. Neither will seven trips through the line at the buffet, a gold card to our favorite liquor store or a Vulcan pon farr, either.
Within these boundaries, there’s a lot of room for Worry Free Fun: too many to list, I think. I’m definitely not like the old Puritans, who seemed to live their lives in fear of having a good time, but I’m not looking for fun all the time, either. It’s a crying shame, but parties have to end sometime, other than the one we check into when we pass the Pearly Gates. I’m also not going to make a pious list of what good, clean fun is: too many folks have done that already, and they’re all incomplete. Having a method of operation, a Way of Living, is always more helpful than a list of rules, even when having Worry Free Fun.
Having fun is a wonderful part of life. Happiness is having everything in balance, ourselves under relaxed control, and a meaningful reason to be. Pulling everything together for ourselves and being comfortable in our own skin means the rest of life will be something we can cope with. It means being so free that we don’t have to give in to impulses right away, but can think things through before we do them. After all, if we want the great unbridled pleasure of jumping out of an airplane, we better make sure our parachute is properly packed and we have a good place to land if we’re going to do it again.