html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: I could not be more serious.

Monday, May 01, 2006

I could not be more serious.

I was born middle class in America, which means that I live a life of tremendous privilege and plenty. Since my basic needs are met and I expect they always will be, I’ve come to believe that my most important priority is fun. That sounds frivolous, but fun is the difference between a great life and passing time. It would be a waste of all I’ve been given if I didn’t make this the most excellent life I could have.

Fun is the explicit goal of all of my voluntary activities and the deciding factor for all my choices. It is the only irreducible reward. Money buys freedom from fear and access to fun. Sex is only as good as it is fun. Power has a charge to it, but without fun it is just grinding responsibility. Only fun winning is worth it; winning an unpleasant or uneven game isn’t much better than losing. Not only is fun the valuable part of any reward, but there is no risk that it won’t be gratifying.

The good thing about realizing that fun is what you really want out of a reward is that you can skip intermediate steps and go straight to the fun. Once you know what is fun for you, you should do that instead of anything that is only a proxy for fun (like material consumption or hedonism or looking cool). For me, fun usually involves moving around, being with witty, kind people, doing new things, learning stuff. Planning fun is often itself fun. Fun often includes goofiness and sometimes a delighted self-awareness in the moment. I should also mention that fun has a high discount rate. Always value the fun as it happens; never leave fun for potential fun.

My friends and I realized a while back that the only measure of an occasion is each person’s subjective fun. The person who has the most fun wins. That spazzy bad dancer rocking out in front of the band and scaring the ladies? If he is having fun, more fun than we are sitting around being dignified (which would never happen) then he fucking wins. Respect. Anyone having less fun than us isn’t worth considering; honestly, I don’t care who sees me and my posse moseying through the supermarket. That person isn’t playing Gunslinger and that means he loses. If a stranger sees us, squints and drops his hands to his holsters, well now, there’s someone with good, discriminating taste. If he looks baffled or disdainful, he has revealed himself as no fun and inherently irrelevant.

If you are not having fun, you are making your life less than it could be. None of the following are acceptable substitutes for fun: money, work, comfort, maintaining your composure, impressing other people. Change your priorities to put fun on top. You cannot lose by having more fun.

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Blogger Ananda said...

Two words for you: GUITAR HERO.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And if the wold is about to end soon, it makes sense to eat your desert first. But what about instrumental goods, like violins? Sorry, things that lead to more fun tomorrow? As in, I could sit around and read trashy novels today, or I could go for a run so that I will have more fun playing ultimate on Tuesday?

2:52 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Make your run fun by knowing Ali AND have more fun playing Ultimate on Tuesday. Big scale fun can mean a lot of work upfront, like my summer project. Also, you have to generally have your act together to really enjoy your daily fun.

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And what about people who have fun at the expense of others?

3:56 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Having fun at the expense of others would be wrong. I can't imagine such a thing.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is your summer project? Having your act together makes fun sound like work ...

4:58 PM  
Blogger matt said...

I wanna start playing Gunslinger in grocery stores.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Sweet Coalminer said...

How can you talk about fun with a straight face after you suffered through FOUR years of law school? Methinks you're bluffing.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Ananda said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Ananda said...

Apparently the linky linky didn't work. I repeat the two words: GUITAR HERO.

Add an "ml" on the end if there isn't one appearing in Blogger's silly comment system.

8:36 PM  
Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Outstanding. You just codified my philosophy of life.


4:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What if you have fun all summer and nothing to eat when the winter comes? That's no fun.

What if you have so much fun now that you're too tired to have fun later? Are you allowed to pace your fun?

Are there other values that might be worth compromising your fun for, even if just a little bit? Like say you could have 100% fun and 0% spiritual enlightenment, or 80% fun and 50% spiritual enlightenment. Would that be a worthwhile tradeoff?

What if fun is really hard to measure? Could one then aim for one of the proxies that's easier to measure? Maximize the amount of money spent, say, or maximize the number of minutes spent someplace that's reputed to be fun (beach) and minimize number of minutes spent someplace not fun (work).

If fun is so important, why are no major world religions based on it?

7:29 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Your post was fun.

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good thoughts. I come here by way of Marginal Revolution, and I'll say that the blog is fun.

That said, it seems like the unspoken prerequisite to living this way is deep self awareness. I've often suspected that many people don't know what they'd find fun in advance, and this leads to the slippery slope of hedonism or materialism.

Noting Megan's thoughts on the discount rate of fun, if you are not self aware, an investment in long term fun never seems to make sense. It is more like gambling than anything else, so why not always take the short cut?

Also, I worry about two other possiblilities:

1) You can plug an electrode into your brain's 'fun center'. Is that the best life? I don't know the answer, but it is something that nags.

2) Fun is amplified relative to actions that are no fun, ergo, a fun maximizing strategy may include quite a bit of no fun. Or something.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To extend Jason's line of thought: What if you had a perfect machine (or drug or whatever) that you could plug into your brain's fun center with no physical side effects. Should you plug in and skip life or not?

I read a book like this once. People got addicted to the machine because it was so pleasureful. They would plug in more and more until they starved to death plugged into the wall because they couldn't bear to unplug long enough to make it to the refrigerator. Which made for an interesting story line but it seemed to me like an advanced future civilization like that might figure out how to use rechargable batteries though.

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh and speaking of the perfect pleasure drug, have you guys read this:

Its a new drug that hasn't quite made it to market yet. Its an odourless, colourless synthetic chemical called PT-141 which causes 'genital warmth, tingling and throbbing', not to mention 'a strong desire to have sex'. Its supposed to be the next viagra and it works on men and women.

But whereas Viagra acts on the circulatory system, helping blood flow into the penis, PT-141 goes to the brain itself. 'It's not merely allowing a sexual response to take place more easily,' explains Michael A Perelman, co-director of the Human Sexuality Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital and a sexual-medicine adviser on the PT-141 trials. 'It may be having an effect, literally, on how we think and feel.'

Creepy. But the interesting thing is it is a nasal spray. Which leads a person to wonder about putting a drug like this in perfume and going to the club. Or better yet putting in the ventilation system at the club. So what are the moral/social implications of that.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I've already had my say about fun, but it's too much fun to stop now.

Was Mother Teresa's life fun? If she wasn't having fun, should she have let those Calcutta street beggars fend for themselves while she went out and partied?

Having fun at the expense of others may not seem like fun to Megan, but I wonder about others. If some people do like having fun at the expense of others, then fun probably isn't the value we want them pursuing. If you do find fun at the expense of others to be fun, but you know it is wrong, which value should you pursue instead that's an acceptable replacement for fun?

As for plugging your brain in, I must say that I have the most fun when my fun is intellectually satisfying. I don't think plugging the fun-ula oblongota into a machine is going to doing it for me.

Good point, Jason, about fun being more fun when you have the experience of no fun to compare it with. That's a good explanation for why dreary hard work can amplify the fun of the enventual award.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an unfortunate surfeit of economists here now. I come here to get away from y'all!

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon your blog quite by accident, and just wanted to say that you are strikingly beautiful.

I hope you find the fun you are looking for, and have an outstanding life.

6:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Megan, I have not read any books on your list and I haven't gotten a four-year degree (duh!)but I do "know" that you have found your deepest instincts and that is why so may have fallen for you...some head over heels, others only fleetingly so.

good points by Thelonius "monk" but 'beauty is the splendour of the truth'.

11:40 PM  
Blogger Ethan said...


4:55 PM  

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