Last week, NPR Reporter Andrew Limbong interviewed Catherine Price, author of The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again. Limbong observed that while he has the impulse to roll his eyes at the news people are hiring party coaches and fun coaches, he can see that these roles maybe akin to people hiring physical trainers. Basically, people find they need to carve out time to focus on fun and need external assistance in accomplishing that goal.
Price says there are three conditions required to have true fun- playfulness, connection and flow. You will notice her definition of connection especially aligns with the conditions people seek from arts and cultural experiences:
A lot of adults get very nervous when you use the word “playfulness,” so I like to say you don’t have to necessarily be silly or childish. It’s really just more about having a lighthearted attitude towards life and towards yourself.
Connection refers to this feeling of having a special shared experience with other people. And then flow is active and engaged. And really importantly, flow requires you to be present. So if you’re distracted at all, you can’t be in flow and you can’t have fun.
She observes in all the stories about fun she has collected from different countries and cultures around the world, very few involve spending money or traveling anywhere. This reminded me of Jaime Bennett’s TED Talk from ten years ago where he observed that people think that art is something someone else does rather than something they have the capacity to do. In this case, it is the idea that you can only have fun in a time or space dedicated to that purpose rather than to make it part and parcel of your daily activity.
Limbong picks up on Price’s mention of being present and asks if social media may have an impact on people having fun. He observed that the fun he is having with nieces and nephews can often be interrupted by someone wanting them to stop and memorialize the instant with a posed picture. Price expounds upon the idea that fun has to have an authentic flow because it spoils so easily.
I think it’s really messed us up because one of the requirements for fun is that you be completely present and that your inner critic is silent. And if you’re performing, then you’re not fully present and you probably have your inner critic on in some capacity. That kills fun. Fun is very fragile. It’s like a sensitive flower.