A quick Google search of the word “fun” brings up a few key words: “amusing, entertaining, enjoyable, pleasurable”.
In my Anthropology of American Culture class, we were assigned to read an ethnography by Robert Myers called, “Nuf and E-Nuf Among the Nacirema”. Read backwards in part, this also means “Fun and Funny Among the American.”
The idea of the article is that Fun is a central American cultural value. We highly value Fun and it is a driving force in many aspects of our society. It is a defining characteristic of appropriateness, goodness, and so on. Fun is central to American culture.
So, it’s interesting to note some differences in how fun is perceived and experienced among different people in our society. Like, introverts. Like me.
I became aware of the term introvert around at around the age of 15 or 16. Briefly, I became obsessed with learning about introversion. It was so affirming to realize that I wasn’t a freak or hopelessly flawed in character; I’m just introverted (which, yeah, to a lot of people unfortunately still means ‘hopelessly flawed in character’). This means so much in regards to how I perceive the world, how I experience my own energy, what I notice in the world around me, and even how my brain processes all this information.
Introverts are a minority in our culture. Most people are extroverts. They’re the “norm”. We’re the “abnormal”.
As an introvert, I’ve found myself loathing the question, “what do you do for Fun?” Or, to look at this in another way, “What do you do for Nuf?” Remember, Nuf brings one a sense of enjoyment, a sense of pleasure, Nuf makes one feel entertained. One often feels amused when one is having Nuf.
For Nuf, I read. I stare out windows for Nuf. I turn my radio on quietly, just so I can hear the sound but I can’t discern what’s being said from the other room, and sit at my computer writing, for Nuf. I tidy up my house, scrub it clean, and light candles and sit in the dim light enjoying a drink and a good movie, by myself, for Nuf. To experience Nuf, I go on long walks outside and observe the world around me, sometimes alone and sometimes with a loved one… the sky, children playing, animals going about their business, leafs blowing along the ground. Simply indulging my sensitive senses is Nuf for me: noticing nuances of sound, taste, touch, gazing upon something beautiful or interesting. It’s Nuf, for me. I find Nuf in riding the public bus or sitting in a coffee shop and taking notice of how social interactions play out between people. One of my FAVORITE things to do for Nuf, is to watch a blue sky with fluffy white clouds blowing by, or to stare up at the dark night sky and try to get my brain to comprehend in the enormity of the universe. I study religious texts and social psychology for Nuf, and reflect on how I fit in, and how we all fit in. I analyse systems for Nuf, especially social systems, and like to have conversations with others about these things sometimes. For Nuf, I do a LOT of introspection. Sometimes, I find my introspective thoughts are E-Nuf – private little moments to myself that make me giggle uncontrollably. I always find it E-Nuf when I catch small, almost imperceptible things that go awry. I love it when that happens, and it’s part of why I enjoy people watching or observing wildlife. There is so much humor there – which is everywhere. Which is part of how I can live quietly and still feel good, content, happy.
If you ask me, “what do you do for fun?” these are the first things that come to my mind.
But existing in an extrovert world, and being the introverted, observant, intuitive person I am, I realize that these answers would likely be thought of as boring, or peculiar, or downright strange to most people who ask this question. So upon being asked this question, my mind quickly shuffles through these first initial responses and discards them, trying to quickly access genuine responses that the person I’m speaking with is more likely to be able to relate to. Parties?! No, that’s not usually Nuf for me… Drinking?! No, not Nuf. Hobbies? Er, playing guitar is enjoyable, but is it Nuf? They didn’t ask about hobbies! They asked for Nuf! Where’s my Nuf?! What do other people do to find Nuf?? I don’t know!!
Several times I’ve turned to the self-depreciating (but also hazardous in that it could be perceived as rude, or annoying) answer of, “Ah, I dunno, I’m a pretty boring person. I just like hanging out and stuff.”
My struggle with the idea of what is Fun has brought me to the somewhat existential question of how time is best spent. Time spent staring out a window might be thought of by a passerby as a waste of time. But they don’t know the thoughts churning in that person’s head while they’re observing the world. They don’t know the deep sense of stillness and contentment and peacefulness there.
And what is a good use of time anyway? Maybe it’s activities that help others – I think few would disagree with that idea. But we can’t ALWAYS be helping others. So the rest of our time might be well spent in pursuit of personal goals, or activities which bring us pleasure or joy. But what if your goals change or get derailed and never get reached? Was all that time, wasted time? What if the joy is short-lived, fleeting? Is it still worth it? Isn’t my deeply fulfilling experience of fun, independent and quiet in nature, just as valid a use of life as … whatever extroverts do for fun? Of course it is. But sometimes I need to remind myself of that. And of course there are harder things in life than being introverted. Of course. I realize that as a person with an education, a job, a roof over my head, and food in my belly (after I have lunch in a few moments), I have the privilege and luxury of even noticing and reflecting on my experience of being introverted in an extroverted society. And then, there the challenges are. Small challenges, in the grand scheme. But there they are.
And while we’re at it, why do we think of our lives in terms of MONEY? Spending it, how much it’s worth, how it gets wasted… Is there another way we can think of our experience of existence that doesn’t equate it with monetary value? How would changing that one fundamental frame change how we perceive things, how we live?
Big questions, yes… What Nuf!