Saturday, July 5, 2008

Rowe Junior High Camp: Week Two

On Friday nights at camp, we let the kids stay up all night. It's called No Curfew Night, and in our Behavior Standards we describe it as a way to safely allow the kids to test their own boundaries and discover what it means to engage in the consequences of their own choices. (They have to clean the camp the next day, so if they are sluggish and cranky it's much worse for them.) NCN's tend to be hilarious, wild, and a great time for pranks and inside jokes.

For last night's NCN, Kelsey and I led a workshop called Shake 'n Bake, which combined baking cookies with dancing to a playlist of songs that all had the phrase "shake it" involved. Last night I danced hard and ate cookies made from scratch, drank a glass of milk with a group of 13-year olds who rarely get to relax in their real lives, and modeled joy by feeling it, deep and true.

We had eight kids in the kitchen greasing pans while bouncing to Big Maybelle's "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." While the cookies baked, we made up dance moves and followed each other around the big kitchen block. At one point, we put our arms around each other and sang Regina Spektor's "Fidelity" in a swaying circle. We burnt the cookies a bit, because we got distracted by "Shake Ya Tail Feather." It was one of my favorite hours so far in camp.

Not only was it lighthearted and delicious, it still was doing some of the very important work of Rowe: undermining broader cultural norms. We had an intergenerational dance party happening, which is very rare in our country. We made it normal for boys to bake cookies by not ever discussing how "cute" it was that they were doing so. We made music with spoons and pans, which reinforced for us all the infinite possibilities for entertainment and art in every day life. I make those meanings explicit for myself, and for you, because that's how I believe intellectuals and great artists look at the world. It's as important to celebrate the intention behind something like Shake n' Bake as it is to celebrate how relentlessly enjoyable it was.

This is the dilemma for me of understanding "fun." I have stopped believing in "just fun," because the activities that bring me delight, ecstatic happiness, and quiet enjoyment tend to have some underlying layer of meaning: they offer me new information, undermine an assumption, surprise me, expand my categories, and so on. There's a whole host of jokes I don't think are funny because I can't enjoy reinforcing stereotypes or saying the same thing over and over again. It's still a challenge sometimes for me to discover why I think something is "fun," but I love the habit of asking the question. Anthony and I decided not to use the word anymore, but to try more precise ways to describe what we're feeling when we think: "That was fun!"

So. Shake n' Bake = community-supporting, stereotype-destorying, joyful, kinetic, comforting.


  1. sounds like... i suppose i shouldn't say "fun"? sounds.... interesting, energizing, exciting... etc.

  2. Bono made the important distinction during, appropriately enough, the time of his ELEVATION tour, between joy on the one hand, and happiness on the other. Joy is useful to contrast with fun, as well. The goal, after all, is soul. Not engrossment.