Defiance of the contemporary
“A hobby is a defiance of the contemporary. It is an assertion of those permanent values which the momentary eddies of social evolution have contravened or overlooked. If this is true, then we may also say that every hobbyist is inherently a radical, and that his tribe is inherently a minority.” – Aldo Leopold
This quote from Leopold was so intriguing that I had to give it a lot of thought. I started to think of my own hobbies; reading, writing, crafts, gardening, photography, correspondence with friends and relatives. All have increasingly little place in what contemporary society deems necessary or efficient.
Most hobbies represent facets of life that are necessary, but are more commonly met in more “efficient” institutional or minimal ways. But mass industrialized farming is not the same thing as gardening or hunting. Photographs taken purely for fun are different from those taken for financial gain, and the reading or writing of business or commercial copy is not the sort of writing I think of as a hobby.
Do you have a hobby? Is there anything you do that is done for the pleasure and benefit of yourself or someone else, in defiance of what is commonly thought of as an effectively time-managed method of accomplishing a similar outcome? If so, you are (at least according to Leopold) a radical in the best sense of the word. I like to think that I, too, am a member of the minority that constitutes this tribe.
I think of the beautiful crocheted items that Dani produces. Certainly blankets could be manufactured much more cheaply and quickly, but could they ever hold the love and beauty that she puts into each gift she makes?
I think of Alys and her gardens, or Pauline and her artwork, or the many readers of this blog who have other interests that require time and discipline. Some prefer biking to automobile travel. Some prefer cooking for loved ones to eating in restaurants. Some prefer harvesting their own wild game by hunting, rather than buying packaged meats in the supermarket. Some enjoy communicating daily via encouraging words, to people whom they have never met (thank you, Sheila and others who comment here frequently).
All are acting in defiance of the unspoken laws of society that say: That takes too much time. That isn’t worth the effort. People are too busy to keep in touch. Nobody sends cards and letters via postal mail anymore. It costs more to grow your own food than to buy it at the grocery store. Why waste so much time on something that might not be fully appreciated?
On and on the subliminal or overt messages of the naysayers go, sometimes provoking guilt in us for spending time on that which they might see as unnecessary. These negative messages are generated in no small part by those who want to sell us on empty entertainment to fill the void that is left when we abandon mindful enjoyment of wholesome recreation.
In some circles, online communities are increasingly referred to as “tribes,” but long before there was such a thing as online social media, Leopold identified a tribe that is present in full force, both online and in the unplugged world. It is a tribe of radicals, to which you probably belong: those who “just say no” to the pressure to do everything in the fastest, cheapest, shallowest way possible. Despite what some might think, I believe our numbers are growing, and the world will be better for it.
One year ago today: