I Need a New Hobby

“Hobbies” are funny things. They are things people do simply because they enjoy doing them. In some ways having a hobby is almost an anachronism at this point. In our optimized society, in our optimized lives, having a hobby nearly seems wasteful. Shouldn’t our lives fall into the categories of “work” and then “everything else” that we have to do, because we have to do it?

This whole line of thought came about when I was speaking recently to someone who has taken up professional kayaking. He asked me a simple question, politely replying to what I just asked him. “Do you have any hobbies?” I had to stop and think for a moment. I looked down at the floor and tried to think. What do I do for fun, for “just because”? I ran through the list in my head. Watching TV, movies, playing on the internet, some guitar, reading. “Writing”, which has been pretty deficient lately (just writing for the sake of writing, I mean – there’s been lots of writing professionally lately).

Everything I thought of sounded inadequate.

How does one compete with professional kayaking? When did I become so boring?

Hobbies are going out of style.

I'm not surprised these are going out of business.

Perhaps during the recession, except for the people who can easily afford not to, we’ve all become a bit puritanical. We’ve had to learn the hard lesson that the difference between having a job and not having a job is the willingness to work around the clock. Or just doing one extremely valuable skill well enough so you don’t have to.

It seems to me, though, that this is turning us stealthily into robots, who do not dream, do not hold existence dear. If we are only meant to work, to perform a function, then the meaning of one’s existence can only equal the work that one does. So where do hobbies fit in?

It seems even worse that many people attempt to “monetize” their hobbies. It’s not enough to do something for the sole fact that you love it. It must also make you money. It must become “work” if you’re to be allowed to keep it. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with doing what you love for a living. Obviously, it’s what we’re all really after. But can’t there truly be an “other” category, an activity that is done purely because it enriches our lives, makes us feel more human and less machine-like?

I guess blogging is in some way a hobby I truly enjoy. But perhaps I’m setting up for myself an unreasonable double standard, where an activity must be “interesting” and “exciting” for it to count. As someone with an artistic, creative bent, I feel like it has to somehow, someway be “original”. And that’s not fair, I suppose. We should do things we love because we love them, whether others think they are intriguing or not, original or not. That’s the challenge, when it comes down to it: loving something so much it doesn’t matter how or why it benefits you. It just does, and that’s enough.

What are your hobbies? Share in the comments below.

Photo courtesy CC License waltarrrrr on Flickr.