Defiance of the contemporary

One dreary January day, I received this surprise in the mail from Boomdeeville. It said "I care" better than any monetary extravagance ever could. The gift of time is precious indeed! January 2014

One dreary January day, I received a beautifully wrapped surprise from faraway Canada.
Boomdee knows how to say “I care” better than any monetary extravagance ever could.
The gift of time via a handmade creation is precious indeed! January 2014

“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:

What to do

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. mickey

    Dear Julia,
    Thank you for this post. I hadn’t thought of myself as belonging to a tribe! Or being a radical … what fun. I do most of what you have listed … I prefer to write notes or letters by hand and love to see what new and lovely stamps are available – matching stamps to the people to whom I communicate. I love to hold a book in my hand – the smell of paper and adhesive – the way the book slowly opens to reveal a new adventure. A fresh, bright piece of watercolor paper and a collection of colorful paints make me happy, especially if I’m preparing to make a special card for someone I care about. I do have a problem when I walk into a fabric store – all those colors and designs! Making a quilt (especially a baby quilt) is so much fun. Making anything takes hand and heart as well as mind and spirit … I think that means investing all of yourself in whatever you create. And what a pleasure to be on the receiving end !! I enjoy the note from a friend or family member that appears in our mailbox so much!
    Thinking about Mr Leopold’s quote, I guess I am a radical as I refuse to purchase a microwave. My mom and grand mothers all used a regular stove and if they were in a hurry a pressure cooker, besides I enjoy the magic of cooking – stirring up a batch of soup or chili. I’ve also put off buying a cell phone – I blame Ray Bradbury for that! Just kidding. It’s just that technology intrudes too much in life … I enjoy the quiet times, and making things.
    Any way – thank you for your posts – always look forward to them.

    • Hi Mickey, I apologize for taking so long to get to this comment. I love it! In reading it, I found a true kindred spirit. So many of the things you say are things I have (too often) said myself, and I have to patiently explain to people all the time that I don’t carry a cell phone on me, so it’s not the best way to reach me if the message is urgent. 😀 If you love postal art, and carefully choosing the right stationery, stamps, etc., let me tell you about an online community I have discovered, full of like-minded people from all over the world. It’s called Postcrossing (you can find it at and through this wonderful, relatively recent (to me) hobby, I have made “postal mail friends” all over the world! The forums are especially fun at getting to know people on a deeper level. You just might find it a great hobby, as I did. The best thing about it is that one can spend as much or as little time on it as one wishes. So it’s flexible in that way. Many of us online in that community have developed a sort of side hobby of making our own postcards with various methods. It’s fun! Thanks so much for your wonderful comment. I truly enjoyed reading it and finding another member of “the tribe!” Thanks too for being here at this blog. I really appreciate it.

  2. Good morning, Julia! I love this take on hobbies – it must be some rebellious streak in me!
    Although I knit and crochet, there is at least some useful end to that activity (unless you count all of the tearing out and starting over as hobby), but watercolour painting is fun and relaxing, and isn’t usually for any defined purpose (such as a gift, it wearable art).
    But if we consider anything that we do for fun, to achieve the same end as could be reached faster or more easily, as a hobby – I have a LOT of those! One example might be using a whish instead of a mixer … but maybe that’s not a good example, since cleaning and storing a mixer is more work than washing a whisk. Hm.

    • Yes, I’ve come to realize that many so-called labor-saving devices are actually “devices that swap one sort of labor for another.” Cleaning out the vacuum cannister and brush rollers springs to my mind…

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

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