John Mark, if the question is going to be about having fun versus not having fun, well, then it is over before it begins in earnest. But that is a false dichotomy of your own creation, not mine or Hanson’s. Surely what’s not at stake is the enjoyment and delight in the “light and ephemeral” joys that form so much of the substance of human relationships. No one, I think, disagrees with you on that point.
Instead, where the question lies is the source of those light and ephemeral joys. I take it that–as a hypothetical–a life without Bugs Bunny and a life without Brett Farve is really not any worse off than a life with them. In fact, a life without them but with, say, Tinker Toys and the Pickwick Papers might have just as many ‘light and ephemeral’ moments as those provided to us by the entertainment complex.
But that is a way of putting it–”entertainment complex.” To perhaps reframe Hanson’s concern so it is more in line with Jacques Ellul, what we now understand as “entertainment” has become so radically alterted by our technical rationality and the deep problems associated with it that it is deadening in ways that we do not realize. Since we love ‘isms,’ I propose a new one: entertainmentism, which is our most popular path to finding meaning in a technocratic society.
I am, I think, as much a populist as anyone and cheer loudly when Chesterton defends the reading of bad novels. But I worry that those of us who are inclined to be boorish academics forget the very real, non-theoretical America (and American evangelicalism!) where entertainment is still the central virtue. You are worried that we shall conceive of life as simply sitting around and reading the Republic. I am more worried that we shall not have ever heard of the Republic at all, and that we shall not sit around reading anything.
My only hope is to listen carefully to the witness of Hanson, Ellul and others. Monasticism isn’t that bad. It only, you know, saved Western culture that many of us are so fond of. And it needn’t be dreary, either. There are, after all, other ways of having fun.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am late to watch last night’s Castle.