Photo by John Hession
Anyone who has watched puppies tussle on the lawn or kids building a fort out of couch cushions has witnessed one function of fun. it’s good early development for body and mind.
But fun is just as important for grown ups (and probably for old dogs too). Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute of Play (a real thing), says, “The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression.” His early clinical research indicated that many modern horror stories of mass violence were perpetrated by individuals who were “play deprived.” If that doesn’t encourage you to get out of your home and office work ruts this summer, then I don’t know what will.
Play, says Dr. Brown, allows a positive override to many of our aggressive tendencies. It creates empathy between adversaries and inspires new ways of thinking about the world around us and the people in it — and not just for kids. Neoteny is a scientific word for the retention of juvenile qualities into adulthood and studies show that humans are the world’s most neotenous animal.
Tourism (a scientific term for fun-having) is the second largest industry in New Hampshire, so we’re certainly geared up to accommodate anyone looking for a good time, which is a good thing since every Memorial Day weekend we get an influx of about a half a million tourists looking for something to do. I think Dr. Brown should conduct a study to quantify the benefits that we provide to the whole country by supplying a healthy dose of play to so many out-of-staters. It’s quite possible that along with helping elect the world’s most powerful leader every four years, the Granite State has also been making the entire Northeast a safer, saner place. Imagine your average Massachusetts (or New Jersey) driver without his annual fix of boating on Lake Winnipesaukee and it makes your blood run cold.
And no matter where they come from, fun attracts the right kind of people. You want to be around people who are fun because they are actively engaged in the world and tend to have a good sense of humor about life when things don’t go their way.
There’s an excellent local organization named Stay Work Play NH that carries out the important mission of helping the state retain its bright young professionals and entrepreneurs while attracting like-minded cohorts from other states. In light of the beneficial aspects of fun, perhaps the name should be changed to Play Work Stay.
To summarize: Fun is serious business, not to be taken lightly. This issue of New Hampshire Magazine is not just casual reading material for the poolside or the deck, it’s a potentially life-saving set of directions to the cure for what ails you.
So go out. Have some fun. It’s not just something that feels good, it’s good for you. It’s good for our state. In fact, it’s good for the whole human race.