Hello Fun and Functional Fringes
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
I, and several others, really wish I was the kind of person that could quickly compile and convey all the magic, the convergences I call them, around This Project which began several years ago.
The new book by Catherine Price, The Power of Fun, is another example of the magical convergences that beg me to wrap up This Project in provocative or otherwise compelling packaging. The stars, planets, and possibly quarks, they say, are clearly aligned, and possibly impatient.
But I’m not a woo-woo guy, and neither is my friend Bug Stu. So we hold these incidents out at arm’s length like everything else we’re working on. The Power of Fun clearly converges though with the kind of approach, an informed wholistic approach, that the mainstream tends to minimize, but that we here are healthily obsessed with.
And as luck, or whatever, would have it, Catherine’s book isn’t woo-woo either. It’s also not cramming fun down your throat (like a lot of enlightened Boomers did while I was growing up — that spoiled a lot of fun, imo).
She’s careful, and she doesn’t use neuroscience as the new 4-out-of-5-doctors-agree sleaze. She’s humorous, warm, relatable, and she might have just delivered the most important book in several years for This Project. (We go through a lot of books.)
This Project is about “Turning back the foes of flourishing”, which might sound a little too fanciful or dramatic for you, what with the sentient old beetle, his account of the Stralf aliens here, their effects on our space programs, driving us into cities, etc. But that new book is likely to be helpful with marriages, other couplings, families, and just plain personal lives. We see even more, as you’ll see below.
So What Are Functional Fringes?
According to Stu, we have a few unrecognized problems which create a confounding context for improving our conditions here. Catherine Price may not have meant to, but she touched on it in her book when talking about deciding (like, that’s what our lives are comprised of mostly, right?), cogitating, while struggling in a broad cortisol-rich environment.
It’s what Stu would call big, and just the tip of a persistent and chilling iceberg was exposed. What makes up the rest of the iceberg are the popular prognoses and prescriptions (read: simplified and monetizable in terms of speaking, publishing, or legislation) which are also both conceived and considered in cortisol-rich conditions. That is, they’re compelling in this cognitively hamstrung distressed state we might call Our Curious Times.
What does that suggest about the quality, the long-term coherence, of the postmodern therapeutic culture and contrivances? You probably see the problem.
It’s not exactly a Catch 22, but close, especially considering how we humies will follow a crowd, kinda like the ants, creating a literal crowd-sourced “reality.” That is, the market-driven publishing/speaking machine is operating in — and for a population that is in — a distressed state. Distress-induced simplification produced, distress-induced simplification desperately adopted.
We’re looking for — and many are looking to produce — an It. We’re also looking to be *In* by knowing, and maybe loving, the latest It. But as Stu likes to say, “It will be iterative.” (And maybe the Pandemic is a well-timed illustration of this.)
I would be reluctant to put a single egg in the prescribed baskets being produced today because of the conditions under which they’re being made. I know many others feel the same way, and not just out of political/philosophical affiliation.
These baskets are woven, I’m gonna say, with oversimplified narratives and philosophically convenient slices of reality.
What we need to deal with is real and whole reality, with all its complexities, which we can now do, since we’re finally understanding the world through a probabilities-based lens (at least the early adopters — and wise old men/women), instead of an absolutist cause-effect lens.
I’m not alone in doubting that it can be done from a so-called Progressive or so-called Conservative platform, perspective, due to their respective lens…prescriptions.
Maybe the ants I mentioned up there care about their offspring’s world, maybe, but I know we do, even though the priority is pushed down a bit in perceived crises. If we care about that, then we have to be careful about coherence with whole reality, not convenient and comforting slices.
Flourishing, resilient and robust flourishing, seems to require a sophisticated handle on both reality (there is one big one, not many) and the reluctance of crowds to embrace its complexity wholly.
Apologies for all the metaphors here. Stu is very metaphorical, as regular readers have heard me explain.
Here’s where Functional Fringes comes in. Similar to Fun in Catherine’s book, certain factors in culture and economics over decades or centuries can de-emphasize important elements of human flourishing. That goes for individuals as well as whole societies.
Lack of time, accessibility, priority, systems understanding…all lead to things like, “Oh, I forgot to change the oil!” or maybe a short-lived delusion like “It sure still feels slick to me!” (Another metaphor. Sorry. I don’t know what else to say at this point.)
We need, we thrive with, a generous fringe of Fun. We also tend to need a generous fringe of time in the countryside, by the ground, where our DNA learned to thrive (a good while back).
And the need is not just for wherever the latest Hot Instagram Shots Monthly compels us to go, but even a short drive out to the soil. It might even be flat. It might be a little marshy, like where Bug Stu is from near Chicago. And this is not about forest bathing, not that it seems like a bad idea necessarily.
The wellness movements, slow food movements, artisanal movements, and other micro-awakenings since the 1970’s never had the brain-based confirmation we have now and really have had for almost ten years.
Remember glamping of the 2010's? Remember dude-ranches of the…1880’s on? There was even one right near Stu’s home southeast of Chicago. That is, this doesn’t need to be all about climbing rocks and otherwise bothering the Western Yetis.
We didn’t have good internet in the countryside in the late 2000’s when this started up (again). Sure, some don’t want the internet, but it does provide an easier way to incorporate this Functional Fringe into our lives. Besides, we won’t hurt the internet’s feeling if we simply choose not to be connected all the time out there.
Remote working and education allow this to be more than just a vacation option. That’s the really big thing. And it can be very inexpensive. It might even make someone realize how inexpensive living and thriving can be, and then there’s like, for many, a whole nuther realization that might come after that.
Are there enough places? Not really. Not yet. But there’s tons of land, fringes of agricultural land (that’s where functional fringes originally came from here at The Pie), which would be more productive and profitable for the landowner as these kinds of getaways. It’s also a good way to give the land a rest — if not long-term conversion to regenerative use.
Stu and Allie, in a way, have designs in mind for growing food, fun, families, friends, fellowship, fitness, firesides, flowers, and so on. It’s a sort of f-word reincarnation, because many are likely tiring of the recent reign of the other one, like we do with everything else. Right on, or what?
Could this lead to a more realistic evaluation of the Yellow Brick Road, what’s at the end of it, and our need for whatever the Great and Powerful Oz is willing to barter? For many, it could be the start of the long-awaited Goodbye. That seems like a very post-postmodern happy ending, or maybe re-beginning.