Friday, October 3, 2008

Serious Fun

This morning I got to thinking about "fun," wondering, the way word-persons do, what we mean by that. Search turns up ideas of diversion and activity, and led me to a fascinating blog, which I have added to my list so you can check it out. "The Ludologist" is perhaps the first real (PhD) scholar of video games. Looking at this field made me realize how woefully slim my options were when I was in college.

One of Jesper Juul's blogs lists the kinds of satisfaction we (they) get from video games. A very interesting list. I would argue that discovery is different than mastery, and that mastery is extremely important to our sense of efficacy. Watch a toddler build a little tower of graduated rings, or take a Slinky down the stairs, over and over, and you will see what pleasure is to be had in simply doing something well. I felt this enjoyment yesterday, peeling an apple.

The older I get, the more I enjoy quiet activities that were not my idea of fun decades ago. This morning I was taking my pills when I saw outside the kitchen window two slate-colored juncos. First of the season. How pleasing, this annual repetition; the juncos are back. I looked up juncos on the serious-fun birding website of Cornell University, and was able to play, and play again, a recording of their simple calls. Why do so many elderly people gravitate toward birding, I wondered?

Well, as we age we become more and more conscious of our bodies. No way around it. I don't mean how we look, you get over that, but how the body feels, what is going on with it. And animals are so wonderfully embodied, so free of abstraction and doubt. Sherlock never has to contemplate his priorities, nor does he ask, "Now why did I do a stupid thing like that?" He does not, I believe, feel it is unfair that he can no longer jump to the top of the toilet tank and stretch up to look out the window. He remembers how he fell one day, doing that.

He plays with the problem occasionally; should I try that jump again? Something in his body says, Ouch--remember that fall? He turns around, and does the jump he can still do, up to the bathroom sink, where there is almost always clean water. Perhaps he thinks of it as a high mountain pool. The metaphor is mine, I like to try to think like a cat. It is so refreshing, compared to thinking like a human.

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