Wednesday, May 23, 2007

An Essay on Hobbies

I have never liked the idea of a Hobby, either of having one or of being exposed to those of others. There are two possible explanations for this aversion, catalogued to the best of my abilities:

1) There is the chance that this is the result of a subconcious awareness of my own tenuous command of sociability. Perhaps I do not get out as much as I should. This potentiality may be the source of more consternation than I am willing to admit, and may have (outside of my knowledge) discouraged my latent desire for a collection, say, of outdated coinage; the explanation, of course, that all such habits have the unfortunate consequence of creating an overfixation in their practitioner; one moment, he's collecting buffalo nickels out of boredom; the next, he's an obsessed quasi-sociopath nervously looking for minting flaws in an antique guinea. All of his previous occupations devolve to this one absurdity, E Pluribus Unum mocking him all the while.

I can't help but feel that there's a morbid side to most any collection of pointless mementos; it picks up the slack left by the insufficient self and attatches to him one more anecdote by which he might be known. But in the end, the only thing more ignominious than not being remembered for one's exhaustive assortment of postage stamps is the ironic possibility that one be commemorated for it and little else: "Father, Husband, Collector." Gray may have rethought his position on the Paths of Glory when confronted with the fact that they at least provide for half-interesting epitaphs.

2) Another possible source of repulsion is that a hobby is by nature selfish; to better qualify this, I am excluding from the category of "Hobbies" any activity which encourages productive commeraderie or offers any useful material or intellectual result. To prove that I am not begging the question, let me also suggest that Hobbies are usually assumed to provide more of a distraction from one's world than an opportunity to engage with it; the latter convenience presents itself in all sorts of entertainments, but World of Warcraft, to the best of my knowledge, is not among them.

That said, Hobbies do not add to the self. They do not provide us with any of the augmentations available in a good book or enlivened conversation, nor then do they thrust us back into the prosaic realm of things better equiped to offer a graceful response. They invite the self that is already there to paint more of its own substance absent-mindedly on a new canvass. There is nothing more intrusive than a person who wants to share their hobbies with us; we don't want to know all that; at least not until we've known them, their pets and mother's maiden name for a good six months; even these are of comparative interest. Sharing one's Hobby at first meeting is a cheap dime tour route to acquaintance, and as good a reason as any for not using up precious space in one's rolodex to record the proverbial Hobbyist's further credentials.

Weighed among human activities, the Hobby has yet to find any notable patron to celebrate it.
The only literary example that comes even close to mind is Walton's "The Compleate Angler," and in all fairness, fishing invites too much reflection to interest the Hobbyist; it catches a variety of Officianadoes, Amateurs, and Poseurs, the latter of which are usually cast back of their own accord, due to a surprising lack of those photoshopped sunset moments promised in the Field and Stream advertisements.

Truth be told, the Hobby is a fairly recent distraction. Masturbatory forms of self-expression were uncommon before Descartes, and often quite dangerous for those as might indulge; the coin collector previously mentioned, if he had lived in 12th century instead of the 20th, would probably have been made suspect in any number of witch hunts and ended up on the wrong end of a stake. Say what you will about the Inquisition, it went far to keep asses of this ilk far from sharing their lack of taste and surplus of time with the rest of us.


Jeff Moss said...

Just wondering...does blogging count as a hobby?

See the t-shirt:

Thomas Banks said...

I had thought of mentioning it in the manner of self deprecation, but decided that blogging is too cerebral an experience.

MySpace, however. . .

Anonymous the Younger said...


Thomas Banks said...

That finest of activities has elicited some of my more profound reflections. Ergo, a persuit, not a hobby.

Good one though, Norm.

RespectMyAuthorita said...

hobby: definition: A spare time recreational persuit. Therefore, you cannot say a hobby is different from a persuit. You play guitar bom, you have a hobby. You probably have many hobbies, coins and stamps may not be one of them, but you have them. We all do. If we work out in our spare time, that is our hobby. Mine are guitar, upgrading/tearing apart my computers, woodworking, planting carrots, and brushing my chesthair.