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What's so Fun about Entertainment & Amusement?

August 21, 2009

Here are the etymology roots of the words that drive Western Civ today:

*fun: "to cheat, hoax," probably a variant of M.E. fon "befool" (c.1400), fonne, a fool, foolish, or fonnen, to be foolish; later "trick, hoax, practical joke," of uncertain origin.

*amuse: †beguile, delude XV; †distract, bewilder XVII; divert with entertaining matter. — (O)F. amuser †deceive; entertain

*entertain: †keep in a certain state; keep up, maintain; treat; receive, e.g. as a guest XV; †retain in service; engage the attention of XVI; amuse XVII. — (O)F. entretenir :- Rom. *intertenēre, f. INTER- + tenēre hold.

If ya care, I got these mostly from encyclopedia.com's use of the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Etymology.

To understand even better how ideas like these work most strongly in our culture, I'd emphasize certain root aspects as follows...

*amuse: from a-muse, "against the Muses."

*entertain: to hold, as related to enchain, entrance, enslave, encage.

*ecstasy: standing outside oneself.

*educate: "to draw out" (It means to draw ourselves and our abilities and our humanness out of us so we can express them truly and freely in the world. It's the opposite of training, which means to inculcate, or to instruct or impose from outside.)

*freedom -- one definition is "the power to be ourselves." How is this different from liberty? Is being yourself the same as doing what you like?

Basically, it seems likely that our culture -- and our child-raising in particular -- works largely on the basis of distraction. That is, in reality that consists in essence of subterfuge coming from outside and forgetting from within.

It seems that, as with anything, there are good and bad uses of these notions.

For instance, a good use of ecstasy would be to do something in a way that gets you outside yourself so that you can see yourself and your world, your situation, better than before and learn something then go back to your usual state in an improved way.

A bad use of ecstasy would be to do something to get out of your usual state or as a diversion only because you don't like yourself or what you're doing (even in a subconscious way) and you need a break to recover so that you can go back and do it again.

*Recreation: to re-create. It seems like it should be actively creative, to help you get back to a prior presumably good state.

What are the Muses anyway? They're Goddesses, namely, Aode (the Muse of Song), Mneme (the Muse of Memory), and Melete (the Muse of Meditation).

By the way, meditation has more meanings than just sitting and thinking of nothing. An earlier meaning, especially in terms of the roots of Western Civ, according to Socrates/Plato, is "stripping away," or gymnastic. (Oh, and there's another cool word to explore the roots of! Gymnastic!) The purpose of meditation is/was gymnastic, that is, activities that help you strip away illusion/delusion. It's an active thing that takes concentration and effort, although the body may well be sitting still and the mind might not be working ordinarily and we may find ourselves withdrawing from some previous habits during the process. It's the process of detaching ourselves and our ideas from the senses and our druthers, both of which tend to be biasing and distorting.

Which brings us to contemplation, another word to look into.

*contemplate: f. L. contemplārī, -āt-, f. CON- + templum open space for observation, TEMPLE

In the classic sense (of Socrates and early Church writings), contemplation comes after meditation and it actually means to live in this world in light of what we discovered in meditation. It's not an isolated state, but an engaged one.

We can also wonder about such notions as friendship and how it might differ from comradeship or association.

And how about that saying "killing time"? How much of what we do is meant to kill time?

Speaking of time, is eternity a long time or is it timeless, beyond time? What could be unaffected by time?

Or what about the idea of truth as it might differ from the concept of fact? Truth can relate to true, as in true-blue or true love, something you can lean on, rely on, which you know works and won't let you down. A fact, of course, is a datum in the process of the scientific method but it's more commonly a political device. How many facts are reliable? How many are subject to change, revision, reversal upon new discovery? Empirical truth is meant to always be open to change of any kind based on new data; its purpose is utility.

We use things. But what is our "we" based on? What have we drawn out of ourselves with our education? What do we use things for? Our lives. Is life based on utility? No, life only uses utility. Our technical society is great at making useful things but does it help us with the WHY side of things?

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