The Fun Intelligence

by Bernard De Koven on June 14, 2003

You know how they talk about all these “intelligences” – like the “creative intelligence” and the “emotional intelligence” and the “mathematical…”?

Well, today I’ve been wondering if maybe “fun” is one of those “intelligences.” Maybe our whole ability to perceive fun and create fun, the whole complex of rational and emotional and physical processes is part of an Intelligence.

You know how you sense something is possibly fun or you sense the fun possibilities…you know how we talk about the spirit of fun or the feeling of fun…

So I’m thinking maybe there is this Fun Intelligence, and that those of us in particular who are particularly gifted with this Intelligence have in fact found it to be central to our survival: socially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, spatially, mathematically…

Which also leads me to think that this is an Intelligence we can foster, nurture, exercise, develop, teach.

As with any Intelligence, I guess the first question in determining its value and relevance is to ask if it has any contribution to make to our survival.

Good question.

On a social level, the Fun Intelligence is frequently all that stands between you and getting beaten to death by a gang of bullies. If your FI (Fun Intelligence) isn’t high enough, you tend to make fun OF just when you think you’re making fun WITH. In the locker room or sports field, failure to perceive the fun intention of a slap on the ass becomes a slap in the face, which frequently leads to a punch in the nose.

On the inner playground your FI is often all that stands between you and catatonic schizophrenia. Your ability to laugh at yourself, to decide not to take things so seriously, to make light out of your darker suspicions…

Intellectually, your FI helps you toy with problems that are simply too big to grasp, to keep yourself alive to the possibility of unanticipated solutions and resolutions. And when it comes to your body, your FI leads you to new sensations, new levels of engagement, new ways to experience the world. It takes you into the deserts and the mountains and beside the still waters. It restoreth the freakin’ soul.

Which makes you think of course about FI and your spiritual development: how it strengthens your ability to perceive the play and interplay of the planetary consciousness; how it brings you into communion with dogs and cats, porpoises and pelicans; how it allows you to share in the play of the infinite wind on the eternal water….

For the fun of it, let’s pretend that we have conclusively concluded that the Fun Intelligence plays a vital role in personal growth and the evolution of the species. And let us further pretend that we have similarly concluded that there is a high correlation between the Fun Intelligence and adaptability, creativity, spirituality, physical, mental, and social health.

Now we are free to address the all-important question: how can we foster the development of the Fun Intelligence? How, we ask further, can we take people whose Fun Intelligence is endanger of atrophy from prolonged misuse? How do we cure the chronically somber?

Can the Fun Intelligence be exercised, restored, expanded upon?

As a matter of fact, yes. It’s through a practice I call “DeepFUN™.” You could call it “Mindful Fun” if you don’t want to use my trademarked trademark. The DeepFUN practice has three parts:

The first is a collection of what I like to call “pointless” games. These are games that are played not for score or trophy or world rank, but for the sheer fun of it all. I call these games “pointless” because no one keeps score. Nor do these games make any particular point. We’re not playing them to prove how profoundly we trust each other or to demonstrate our bravery or reveal our inner depths. Pointless games are purposeless, pointless practices, not a few of which have their origins in college drinking games.

The second component of this DeepFUN practice is the conversations we have between the games. These conversations are devoted entirely to the experience of fun. We talk about what it was like when the game was most fun, about how we might make the next game even more fun. We don’t focus on individual performance. We don’t try to find out who had the most fun or played the best. We focus only on the experience of fun, and how it can be deepened. As the practice continues, each game becomes like a laboratory for evoking, exploring and refining the experience of fun.

And the third is all about the conversations we have on our Inner Playgrounds, as described in “Recess for the Soul,” where we contemplate the “inner we,” invite our deepest selves to play, free ourselves to meet ourselves in joy.

For most of us, the last time we exercised our capacity for generating fun was around the end of the first week of first grade. This is why when we do experience something really, deeply fun, we attribute it to the “inner child.” It takes time to rebuild the Fun Intelligence to full, adult capacity. Some of my classes are as long as five or six days, and still not long enough to help people fully recover from years of fun deprivation. And yet, it is my experience and conviction that by introducing the practice of DeepFUN, we can reach even the terminally dour.


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