Thursday 13 October 2016

Are we having fun yet?

Well? Are we? When did you last have fun?

I had a good day yesterday. I woke up at 0500 hrs after a rather restless night and realised that, if I started now, I could make The Beloved a birthday cake and have it cooled down and in a tin before she came down for coffee two hours later. And it was so, and I washed up the mixing bowl, the spoon and the cake tin as well. That was a good start. Then I had three surprisingly wonderful classes.
  • 0900-1100 helping my first year biologists get to see their own cells [squamous epithelium from the inside their cheeks, as you ask] and calculate how big they are. I could see the lights coming on, one after the other, as they mastered the kit and completed the task.
    • time to eat an apple
  • 1200-1400 working shoulder-to-shoulder with my final year project students as they hewed at the coal-face of the frontier of science. One of the lads was having a dark teatime of the soul about his project which is now about 5 weeks in and had lost direction. I was able to brace him a little and show that a) he had made progress b) there were a few interesting directions in which his next leap forward might go.
  • 1400-1500 I was able to express how proud I was of my first year pharm techs for having a 100% completion rate on the mini-research project I had set them the previous week. They had delivered so much, and such unexpected, information that I feel a Blob post coming on.
As with a lot of the best times at The Institute “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” I lit out of The Institute as soon as the last class was over because I wanted to be home in time to unpack, ice and present the birthday cake for afternoon tea.  On the way, I caught the tail end of an interview with Dr Ben Fincham, the author of The Sociology of Fun, and a senior lecturer in the Dept Sociology at U. Sussex [prev] in England. He's the only person in that University who claims research expertise in cycling, death and fun: my sort of guy; but I'm clearly going to have to do more fun [15] and less death [96] . . . I'm beyond cycling [20] since the accident. Fincham was talking with Sean Moncrieff on Newstalk FM about how how cleaning human excrement off your kitchen floor doesn't have to be a chore or a bore. That was an arresting thought. Fincham went on to elaborate how he realised that he was treating the act of picking his kids up from school as dead-time. He resolved to stop that and every journey became an adventure, an engagement and as much fun as you can legally have on a pavement in Brighton. As he spoke I realised that was what my day had been - fun. I didn't have to bake in the pre-dawn dark and I have a lot of freedom about how I teach and what I teach.

Autonomy and spontaneity seem to be key elements in Fincham's thesis about what constitutes fun. You cannot have fun on the company's paint-balling away-day . . . not unless you mitch out of the arena with Doris from accounts and help her buy diamante shoes for her next hen party. Fun is when you seize the day and go to a soccer match with a stranger because he asks you to. Ben Fincham doesn't, yet, have much of a media presence so it's hard to find places to refer you for more infromation. And you can't afford his book at [€63!!] but you can nevertheless resolve to have more fun . . . now . . . because you'll be a long time dead.

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