Sunday, December 23, 2007


My friend over at Beneath the Ginko has been writing lovingly about his hobby - painting miniature figurines. To me, the hobby holds little to no interest, but it's kind of fun to read about because his enthusiasm rings through.

Every now and then, when I'm stuck making small talk with someone, I'll ask if they have any hobbies. Invariably, they need to think a moment before answering, which is completely understandable, because most hobbyists don't think of what they do as a hobby. "Hobby" somehow sounds like a distraction - an amusement to fill time. A "hobby" sounds frivolous - but, for a real hobbyist, a hobby is a part of who they are. A few months ago, after spending an evening fishing, I wrote:
fishing, for me, has the three attributes of what I consider a "true" hobby - something that requires complete concentration, an unattainable level of skill, and doesn't really matter.

All three are crucial. Complete concentration takes you away from everything else. Work, home, people, issues, everything melts away until you're there, in the moment, just a guy working a fly rod. The skill level required needs to be beyond you - partially to assist with the complete concentration part, but also to keep you working toward something near perfection. I wish I could say this in smaller, more modest language, but it's a way of brushing up against that other dimension, be it God, infinity, or some unifying force, that stirs and quietly thrills a part of me that can't be dormant.

Finally, it can't really matter in the day-to-day sense. It has to be pure - something done for its own sake. Most of what we do is, in some way, about impacting the world. Our work, our politics, our conversations, our philanthropy - they're all a way of asserting our presence in the world - remaking the world in some small way to better accommodate us. But a pure hobby does not really impact the world in such a manner. It places you "in" the world, instead of somehow with or against it.
What shocks me, though, is that some people, if you ask them their hobby, will assure you that they don't have one. "I'm too busy for a hobby," they assert.

I hope those people really do have a hobby, but they either don't realize it or they are too embarrassed to admit it. Perhaps they cannot associate the trivial word "hobby" with their passion for studying, collecting and displaying arrowheads. Perhaps that person spends hours whittling intricate sculptures out of ivory soap, but doesn't want to share such a deep passion with me, a virtual stranger. Perhaps, as a philatelist, s/he does not want to face the indignity of listening to me claim "Yeah, I used to collect stamps when I was a kid. I had a banana shaped stamp from Tonga! Do you have one of those?"

I look at myself, and I have lots of hobbies, at various stages of activity. (Blogging doesn't count, since it doesn't fit my definition of a hobby very well.) Some of my hobbies have been dormant for years, but I still feel close to them, and fully expect to dive back into them at some stage of my life that offers more leisure. Here's a list that comes to mind quickly: golf (I'm a terrible golfer, but I have fun), watercolor painting, philately (pre-1945 US and Germany, with an emphasis in postal stationery, covers, and postal history), homebrewing, cooking, reading fiction, writing, and learning about jazz.

I'm curious about what other hobbies are represented out there. Commenters, what hobbies enrich your life?



Blogger Spyder said...

I consider blogging & reading blogs a hobby. I also knit, spin yarn, weave, crochet, dye, and read. I would like to learn to play fiddle, mandolin, and how to paint watercolors.

12/23/2007 12:17 PM  
Anonymous travelingal said...

I study and collect vintage costume jewelry from the Victorian era up through the 60's. I've got tons of books on them. I love art nouveau and art deco and also sparklies done by designers like Trifari, Eisenberg, Merriam Haskell, Carnegie..there are dozens of them. I'm also a member of a couple of very large on-line costume jewelry clubs. I know that sounds like a drag to most men (although we do have some men in our clubs) but those sparklies of yesteryear are my passion.

Incidentally, I'm always looking to buy. Anybody got any for sale?

12/23/2007 1:51 PM  
Blogger Kanga said...

Thanks for the love, Dan. Funny thing about the hobby, the hardest part for me is remembering not to make it chore-ish. I have a tough time with the whole "I started this figure a year ago and it still is not done." The thing about a hobby is that it is that rare time and place where we should allow ourselves the freedom to act on a whim. Today I took out a few kits and puttered with them, even though I have several in-progress figures just begging to be finished. Go on and beg, Mr. T.E. Lawrence (120 mm resin kit.) You are not the boss of me!

12/23/2007 8:15 PM  
Anonymous JW said...

I like to canoe and camp, and I have some collections like rare coins. My favorite thing is rock art, but I don't have much and it's expensive. I occasionally pick up some autographed show posters and frame them. If I ever open a bar...

12/23/2007 8:32 PM  
Blogger Melinda said...

Oh boy, this is going to be fun!

Crocheting, photography (though that's getting to be more of a passion to me), playing my violin, learning new musical instruments, and drawing/painting (I drew a Garfield scene in junior high, then did it again a few years ago) are all hobbies. I'm getting interested in flowers, but mainly because I'm tired of not knowing what anything is.

12/24/2007 10:35 AM  
Anonymous ray ray said...

"my passion IS my hobby...I work with retards."

12/24/2007 11:58 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Reading books and roadtrips are my favorite hobbies. Merry Christmas, Dan!!

12/24/2007 12:09 PM  
Blogger mamagotcha said...

Funny, I never thought of roadtripping as a hobby, but if it is, then it's definitely one of mine.

Among others, in order of how often I do it these days: knitting, writing, reading, board games, word games & puzzles, braiding hair (Renaissance-style), juggling (how I met my sweetie), beadwork, drawing/painting.

12/24/2007 6:25 PM  
Anonymous videopundit said...

I collect political videos.

Merry Christmas

12/24/2007 7:05 PM  

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