Opening the topic of people's entertainment is tricky especially if you do so with a view as to whether it adds to their overall moral fiber or character. It's a bit like traversing a minefield where there is ample opportunity for misunderstanding, getting defensive and feeling judged– it goes to show how seriously we take our fun!
But hopefully we all can agree that it’s a shame that such a deep dichotomy sometimes exists between our entertainment and our character. I regret how the media (full of its own prerogative, I'm sure) tends to elevate entertainment as solely worthy of all our efforts while fostering one's own personal integrity is given the same reception as getting a molar pulled.
Surely there is some way the two can exist harmoniously together. I believe they can, but admittedly, it does require some reflection on our parts, and there’s no getting around that.
Look at it this way: it’s a bit like school recess.
Between my husband and I, in our respective teaching careers, we’ve clocked in hundreds of hours of recess-duty. Recess, as we all know from experience, can go one of two ways: either the kids share sports equipment and have fun (which requires character) or they can take their fun too seriously (it’s all about them getting the ball) and nobody has fun, not even the ball-hogging curmudgeon.
But they’re kids, they’re learning and so they’re excused, to a point.
But what about us adults? Do we try to strike a balance between how much time we devote to our entertainment versus our character? Do the two ever overlap?
Let’s pluck the following adult “recess time” as an example: professional televised sports. Now, lest you think I’m picking on pro sports or sports fans, please note that what I’m about to say also goes for DIY, crafts, cooking shows or concerts. My question is: are you inspired to imitate that to which you devote yourself? Do you knit, cook, garden, build things, play an instrument or do sports, even recreationally?
Or, in other words: is what you watch an inspiration to how you wish to live or is it a distraction away from how you are in fact living?
In the case of televised sports, I acknowledge that not everyone who watches is an athlete, nor do they need to be in order to appreciate a display of athletic prowess. It is also just fun to get together with people in the spirit of local team camaraderie! I totally get it!
But back to the question of striking a balance: If you watch one three-hour sports game in a given week (or an hour of interior design shows, or an Iron Chef marathon) do you then go out and do something else meaningful that lasts about the same amount of time? It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant: you could visit relatives, read something, exercise, clean house, do laundry, take a class, garden, donate old items to charity, spend time with your kids, cook for your family, coach your son or daughter’s team etc.
Or how about go to mass (which only lasts one hour)?
Now hopefully it’s obvious that while there is nothing wrong with enjoying oneself by supporting a team, having a hobby, or watching a national pastime, it only stays a healthy interest, or even remains exciting so long as it’s in proportion to how else we live.
This is key because something that starts out as entertaining can quickly lose its thrill if we overly saturate ourselves with it. And so, I submit, that when that our entertainment falls into its proper place, when it’s not the center of our lives we enjoy it MORE because we’ve spent time doing other things that predispose us to actually appreciating how good it is.
How do we know if we’ve struck a balance? Two good questions can answer this for us: first, does the qualifier “fun” have to be present in an activity for us to do it? And: are there a disproportionate number of activities we do specifically because they are “fun?” After you answer these questions, go back and substitute “character” for “fun” and you will have a great springboard for self-reflection.
And yes, I am of the school that believes we should practice doing what is good because it is good in and of itself whether it entertains us or not. I’ve become this way mostly because I’ve seen entertainment become unduly important in schools and even forms of worship. But that is a topic for another post.
I also think that people today take ‘having fun’ a little too seriously. Regarding sports, I’ve seen such a disproportionate amount of local team paraphernalia and regalia lately (jerseys hung in windows and flags literally hoisted on masts people have jerry-rigged to their cars) that the die-hard Catholic in me has to hold back from raising the 'Keys of St. Peter' flag above my van in that “Forgive us our other worldly idols, Heavenly Father!” kind of way. But that would be a bit silly on my part, and most people probably would miss the connection.
And anyway my genuine sense is that we watch sports because it’s there, it’s enjoyable and it’s one of the few things on TV which isn’t morally reprehensible.
Watching the mastery of a skill, craft or sport is universally enjoyable, and so is rallying together as a community for a cause, for a team, or project. But it only remains so depending on us, and if we can make our entertainment not solely “about us,” now, that’s truly enjoyable!