Alcohol in and of itself is not bad. But among alcoholics, there is no such thing as a harmless drink. Likewise there is nothing wrong with fun in and of itself. But among fun addicts abstinence from games may be the only solution.
Living sober is so hard because reality is so frightening and depressing. We have spirits that yearn for immortality encased in bodies that regularly excrete the stench of our approaching death. We have imaginations that assure our divinity while catastrophes and failures loom to remind us of our impotence.
So we escape to alternate realities through avenues like alcohol, to help us completely forget our creatureliness, or through games which can provide what the real world cannot, namely, a clear sense of purpose, control, and security.
Alcoholism and drug addiction already have a strong social stigma attached. But the lesser known epidemic of fun addiction deserves no less abhorrence, which I hope to demonstrate in this essay.
It is far more tempting to be the master of one’s fate in a game than to be a creature vulnerable to the uncertainties of real life. In the world of basketball or Nintendo, one has the potential of becoming divine if but for that brief period in that limited domain. Everything is manageable (bolstering the illusion of omnipotence) and everything can be explained (bolstering the illusion of omniscience).
Just what is wrong with these “harmless” diversions, especially when the alternative is suffering fear and heartache, is well illustrated in the movie, “The Beach”, based on the best-selling novel and starring Leonardo Di Caprio.
The beach is an island hide-away where people go to live 24/7 on vacation mode. It is the fun addict’s paradise.
But one day a shark viciously attacks one of the inhabitants. Reality literally bites. Then the real problems begin.
The terribly wounded man simply will not die quickly or quietly enough. His screams of agony put a damper on the community’s schedule of games and relaxation. His fading presence is an unavoidable reminder of that truth which they all moved to the island to evade, that is, of their inherent powerlessness, vulnerability, and inevitable demise.
So after a few days, the community of fun addicts takes the shark victim writhing in pain to a remote part of the island. As Di Caprio’s voiceover explains, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Soon after, they resume their volleyball playing as their friend slowly dies alone.
The danger of “harmless” diversions, as the movie powerfully shows, is that it disables a person’s capacity for compassion. A community of fun addicts is unable to show sustained empathy for very long.
For the whole purpose of fun is to anesthetize one’s mind to the existential predicament which a person does not want to face – his fear of death. Thus it is naive to expect people who seek to distract themselves of their mortality to reach out to people suffering from the pangs of death. They want to ignore, not be reminded, of their fundamental weaknesses.
To conclude, proposing a halt to fun is no more radical than what is required for recovering alcoholics. That is the unfortunate burden that fun addicts must carry to get sober. It does little good to assert that fun itself is not bad. That may be true for most people in the world where reality is faced more squarely. But for fun addicts, the innate harmlessness of games is irrelevant.
Too many believers are drunk on fun. They are incapacitated to handle reality in all its terrible fallenness. Thus their capacity to show compassion has become diminished. This is particularly tragic because believers were called to redeem, not evade, a fallen world.