What is Fun?

My husband Rich and I were at the New Mexico State Fair last weekend. We don’t make it every year, but we always have fun. We like the giant vegetables, the model trains, the music at the African American pavilion and Villa Hispana, and most of all the pie. The pie is served up in its own building by a consortium of faith groups who feed the hungry of Albuquerque all year on the proceeds. This year we had raspberry and strawberry rhubarb. “How many places on earth,” Rich mused, “have this big a selection of pie right this very moment?” Very few.
But this led me to muse on fun. What is fun? Are Beethoven and Tolstoy fun? Television? I’m saying no to both. Art takes too much concentration, television too little. The fun zone is a specific one. Otters and children personify fun in its running around mode. I think fun may need motion. (Check for the state fair). Fun needs variety, maybe a nice mix of the expected and unexpected. For example, you don’t want the swimming pool to turn to shark infested waters but a giant beach ball is a good addition. (Check state fair). Fun should have specific food—think picnic (Check). Small furry animals. Large majestic ones. Happy crowds of moderately well behaved people. Things to buy, but in my opinion, no over the top consumption. Check, check, check.
In his book A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments by David Foster Wallace the title essay is about a cruise. But there is one on the state fair. I can’t match his midwestern lyricism on the subject, but I do enjoy myself.
One of my favorite places at the state fair is the Indian Village. I like to watch the crowd, where people seem to know each other. I enjoy some dancing and music and debate eating a Navajo taco. But this Saturday night there was something amazing and different—pole flyers from Mexico. Ceremonially attired men climbed a massive pole, played a flute on the top, and flew off attached to just a pair of ropes each as the sun was setting. It had the death defying quality of Cirque de Soleil as well as religious ritual. Was that fun to watch? Or too awe inspiring? I’d say, just on the edge. Fun needs to be a bit homey—if it gets too exciting it turns into adventure (or disaster).
But walking the midway a bit later, all lit up, with the ferris wheels throwing a glitter of colors across the night sky, and not having to actually RIDE anything was perfect. Now that was fun.

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