Have Fun, Lots of It

I love birthdays because they remind us to have fun. For my forty-fourth, I decided to celebrate with four different activities.

The most well-attended was puppet making in the park. To pull this off, it helps to have a mom who makes puppets and has a studio full of colorful supplies, from yarn to fabric to sequins. Awakening people’s liveliness takes little more than setting the plastic bins full of crafty goodness on a picnic table and inviting everyone to begin.

No one hesitated. No one claimed she wasn’t creative. Everyone simply picked up a paper bag or a toilet paper roll and began to construct a being that had never existed before. We had dogs and cats, a mythical rainbow animal and a magician, even a fellow who could raise his bushy purple eyebrows.

When it came time to leave, every guest said, “That was so much fun.”

Our culture often limits fun, both in importance and variety. As adults, we’re told that our responsibilities take priority over our play time and that only a few forms of play are acceptable, some of them more harmful than enjoyable.

But fun is a powerful force. It awakens our souls. It puts us in touch with God’s creativity flowing through us, and so it connects us to our selves, to our divinity.

We are the result of God having a great time. The Big Bang did not arise from a sense of obligation. When divinity decided to have a party about fourteen billion years ago and see what this existence thing was all about, a great outpouring of love and joy set this universe in motion.

That outpouring hasn’t stopped. We are the current manifestation of the divine party that has always been and will always be. Let’s have some fun.

Wooden Kabuki

Human beings are kind of strange. I most recently thought this at a Bunraku puppet show that my mom and I went to see this week.

Bunraku is basically kabuki with puppets. In other words, we created wooden figures to emulate our own bodies, but it’s hard to make a Bunraku puppet do kabuki, maybe harder than it is for an actual person to do it. It takes three people to manipulate one puppet.

These black-clad people march the puppet around the stage and make it jump, dance, or weep. You know the people are moving the puppet, but it feels more like they are serving the puppet—not like enthralled minions but rather with love, as if they are lining their actions up with the puppet’s instead of the other way around.

Because the audience was unfamiliar with Bunraku, the puppeteers gave a demonstration of how they move the puppet together. The moves are not choreographed in advance. The two people moving the legs and the left arm follow the lead puppeteer according to subtle signs: the movement of his legs or the direction the puppet is looking. Sometimes. Other times they just have to be in tune enough to know his intentions.

Why do we do this? Why do we carve puppets and train for years to be able to move together as a whole to bring that puppet to life when we could just watch a human being do kabuki far more gracefully?

The show started with a plain puppet—no clothes, no face, just a three-dimensional outline of a human being—that came out and interacted with the audience, bowing and shaking hands. One man looked as if he wanted to treat the puppet with respect and act appropriately. One woman beamed with delight. Each person clearly interacted with the puppet, which displayed a definite personality.

Maybe this question is no different from asking why we write books or make movies or paint representations of our world on canvas. There must be thousands of answers. Perhaps one of them is that we are creators, and when we do these things, the spirit of the One in whose image and likeness we are made flows through us, through our work, and through those who shake hands with the puppets.