Why Have Hobbies

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Robert A. Heinlin

At some point we all forget how many things we wanted to know and do when we were kids. We get old, and we get “practical”. We specialize. We stop having hobbies.

We start defining everything we do in terms of usefulness for some end beyond the thing itself. I have to eat well and exercise so I can get enough sleep so I can succeed at work so I can have a nice house I can sleep in and a car to get to work and the gym and buy the groceries I need to stay fit so I can excel at my job…

I cringe when I hear people talk about the health benefits of forgiveness, like it’s not something that we should just do.

There are clear benefits to being someone with a lot of interests. I could talk about the effect on creativity, happiness, pride of accomplishment etc. Or that Nobel Prize winners are rarely people who don’t have other interests outside of work.

But if everything you do is for the sake of some other thing, what is it that you’re doing that everything is ultimately for? Is life just an endless succession of random tasks that help you get better at those random tasks? Is it just one long Incremental Game?

Something you do should be worth doing just to do it.

A good hobby should be something that you do because you want to do that thing, for whatever reason.

Revel in the joy of just doing something, of exercising agency, of bending the world to your creative will in some limited way.

Revel in the joy of bending yourself to the reality of the endeavor you’re undertaking.

Find joy in being fully present in an activity, of slipping out of time slightly.

Taste the liberating goodness of doing something for its own sake.

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