Monday, 11 October 2010

Amusement



The past week or two have been so full that many things have gone undone, such as writing on here, for instance. The issues, both personal and diocesan, are not ones I can write about. Suffice it to say that they have been demanding, draining and time consuming. I am not complaining: this is what I knowingly let myself in for when I accepted nomination all those months ago and the busyness has been an occasion for learning and growth and has thus been oddly invigorating. There have been times though when I have needed an escape of sorts, so along with the full timetable that comes as an inescapable accessory to the pointy hat, I have been frantically reading and watching the occasional video.

There's a distinction I have sometimes used in sermons, between amusement and entertainment. I have taught that the word amuse consists of a negative prefix (a-) attached to the word muse meaning to inspire. Amusement is thus the negation of thinking, and it is contrasted with entertainment which is the adoption, consideration and enjoyment of ideas, aesthetic experiences or whatever. Just as we entertain a guest, the ejoyed thing is invited in, a relationship is built and we consider how far the entertained one will be a part of our future life. Entertainment invites growth. Amusement invites temporary anaesthesia.  It's a useful distinction. So useful in fact that even now, when I have learned after the fact that this little piece of entymology is actually inaccurate, I have decided to retain it's valuable services nonetheless. I don't have a lot of time for amusement as I have previously and erroneously defined it. For me, reading blockbuster novels or films without anything to think about or be moved by is inexpressibly tedious. Watching a sporting match is fine as long as there is a sense of narrative - as for example in a cricket test match- but sports which are purely spectacle, such as competitive ballroom dancing, just don't do it for me, I'm afraid, skillful though they may well be. Contrary to my usual inclinations, I haven't been able to garner the slightest interest in the Commonwealth Games this time around, maybe because of lack of time, maybe because I can't see the venues without thinking about the folks whose homes were bulldozed to improve the view from them.

So, lately I been entertained in a feeling response tear jerking sort of way by Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side and in a stay awake thinking about the implications sort of way by the docudrama Bloodlines. Mostly, I have been entertained by a biography of JRR Tolkien and The Beauty of the Infinite by David Bentley Hart. I've found the odd spot of gardening and home improvement quite entertaining. But as far as amusement - switching off the brain completely in order to escape into some reality completely unconnected from this one- goes, the only thing that has happened this week has been Paul Henry. He's certainly been fairly amusing.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

2 comments:

Ben said...

As someone who likes to think of himself as an entertainer I thoroughly appreciated reading your distinction between amusement and entertainment. The real etymology isn't too far from your guess (as I'm sure you know). My dictionary says this on the subject...

"ORIGIN late 15th cent. (in the sense [delude, deceive] ): from Old French amuser ‘entertain, deceive,’ from a- (expressing causal effect) + muser ‘stare stupidly.’ The current senses date from the mid 17th cent."

To stare stupidly. What a wonderful phrase.

Jules said...

Hi Kelvin : I may have double or triple posted due to a odd browser hiccup.

Only one post, the previous one, on enjoying your reflections, and on Meister Eckhart was intended.

Cheers

Julian.