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What is entertainment? Someone once said “something you want when you are bored?” Well no, not necessarily.

Wikipedia describes entertainment as “any activity which provides a diversion or permits people to amuse themselves in their leisure time, and may also provide fun, enjoyment and laughter”.

Based on this description this would include participating in an activity such as dancing at a disco or playing sport as a hobby. Generally, however, most people today consider entertainment as something that usually happens without their input i.e. as a result of someone else’s work.

Say the word entertainment today and the most common response you will get is TV. And that just goes to show how times have changed.

A walk through history

In times past most of what we consider as entertainment had mystical origins. Song and dance was a means to address the gods, a serious and sacred business.

Drama in ancient Egypt grew out of religious ceremonies. In Greece annual festivals included a competition for the best song. The songs were chanted by a group of men, the chorus and a performer exchanged comments with the leader of the chorus, producing the first actor in the history of theatre. They performed in a circular area called the orchestra.

Ancient Rome followed Greece and slowly the bouquet which now constitutes entertainment developed. The ‘world’ was entertained by gladiator combats and chariot races. These were followed by mimes, clowns, puppetry, ballet, pantomime and in Italy musicals and the opera. Along came the travelling fair and circus, the music hall, cabaret, vaudeville, cinema, radio, the talkies and television.

Entertainment today

Today, built on this rich tapestry of evolving entertainment, we have all sorts of entertainment to choose from. We don’t even have to leave home to access a huge reservoir or entertainment these days. Entertainment material can hired or downloaded, we can select from hundreds of TV channels and watch movies, sport or current events and news. We have ipods and iphones and can download movies and music or surf the web. If life is boring we swop it for a more interesting version through virtual reality using computer graphics. Of course, man is a social animal and socialising with friends and family over a dinner followed by a movie for example is still a great way to go but it still involves minimal input from us.

Then there is the flip side of this i.e. being entertained as opposed to entertaining ourselves – going to the zoo, planning a party or get together, taking a tour, etc.

Whilst our entertainment options are virtually endless, it’s the type of entertainment we choose that will impact our lives . . . for better or for worse. Perhaps the key is balance which is why it is so important to know what our children are watching. We need to guide them in their choices of entertainment to make sure they are healthy and well balanced. A good example of negative impact is the effect on the self esteem of our teenagers girls . The total obsession with looks has reached an all time high and the quest for perfect looks knows no bounds. Cosmetic surgery has swept through society and is glamorised by the media everywhere. Shows like ‘Extreme Makeover’ and “I want a famous face” simply endorse the ‘perfect look’ and make plastic surgery sound like it’s the right thing to do. And, whilst we say we should worry about our children we should bear in mind that we aren’t immune to this type of brainwashing either.

Many of the things we are exposed to in the name of entertainment – violence, divorce, drugs, skewered perceptions like ‘being wealthy makes you cool’, ‘character’s ok but looks are better’ and ‘what you have is more important than what you are’ – can impact negatively on us if we don’t know who we are and what we stand for.

On the upside, never in the history of mankind have we had such an immense source of entertainment to choose from and to learn from and never before has it been so accessible to all levels of society.

What next?

It’s actually quite simple. If we view what we see, hear and do as what they are – forms of entertainment – and don’t take them to heart we can learn to enjoy them without becoming preoccupied or overly influenced by them.

Whilst technology can bring us entertainment in many new ways it cannot guarantee us enjoyment. If we find that what we are watching, reading or listening to makes us feel dissatisfied with ourselves or our lives then we are not getting enjoyment from it and it’s probably not doing us any good. The solution, switch to another form of entertainment that does make you feel good.

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