Friday, October 9, 2009

Doing Nothing For Fun

It was one of those innocuous questions everyone hears or asks in casual conversation all the time, the kind of not-too-deep ice breaker most people can answer without much thought, so of course I stumbled all over it. "Do you have any hobbies?"

I didn't have a ready answer, I think, because I really don't do anything that fits the stereotype of a hobby. I don't collect or make things or participate in any leisure activity or sport with regularity. I don't garden or paint or hunt or fish. In general I don't do anything of which people usually think when the word hobby is mentioned. This humble and neglected blog probably comes closest to a "normal" hobby, which says yet more about me that I probably shouldn't ponder.

It wasn't always so. Growing up I was a huge fan of the space program. I kept a scrapbook of every article I could find on the subject, and built a large model of the Saturn 5 rocket. I also used to draw regularly, usually cars, especially after acquiring a draft pack for a college class. But for quite a few years I haven't done anything like those.

Once again, Merriam-Webster: "hobby - a pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation". By that definition I do have hobbies. Perhaps another reason I didn't casually say so is....well…I feel slightly embarrassed when I mention them.

- I watch a great deal of TV.
- I think a lot.

Not exactly mountain climbing and skydiving. I can see "LAZY" run through a person's mind, and it often strains that person's politeness reflexes to not say "that's it?", although I never blame anyone who does. The conversation usually moves on to another topic quickly.

TV has always been scorned as being not so much a hobby as a way to suppress brain activity. But growing up long before the internet in a town too small to have a public library, television was an important information source for me, limited as it was then (no cable), not so much about classic academic subjects (although PBS was good for that), but about the wider world. I eventually made TV my profession for 16 years, and if I had it to do over it would still be. As it is, even with the internet TV is still my old favorite window on the world.

As for thinking, that seems a bit like saying breathing is a hobby. Many people would probably consider daydreaming a more appropriate term for what I do. Here again I cite my upbringing; for all its limitations, it was a great environment for quiet contemplation of whatever came to mind. I always tell people that I don't bore easily; even when I look bored I'm usually fine, just thinking. This does contribute to a vicious circle, in that my antisocial tendencies cause me to drift off, which (along with a tendency to look like I'm not paying attention when I actually am listening) makes me seem more antisocial. Thinking does have the great advantage of being readily doable anytime, anywhere, with no accessories required.

My hobbies are cheap: roughly $87 a month for cable and internet supports them nicely. Compared to what some people spend on their pastimes this is a bargain. They also feed each other: TV gets me thinking, which provides material for the blog, the production of which often leads me off on other tangents, and so on. I suppose I could add internet surfing to the list, but lately I haven't had time to do that for much more than to feed thought and the blog. Besides, compared to the others, which have been lifelong, the internet/blog is a newcomer.

Maybe someday I'll take up something more traditional, but I like what I have now. They meet the definition above, in that I find them relaxing, which is what hobbies are about.