Monday, December 13, 2010


Hobbies. Do you have any? What exactly are they besides a running joke in our house that my husband has none. The dictionary says: An activity or interest pursued outside one's regular occupation and engaged in primarily for pleasure.

'Primarily for pleasure'. That gives them a bit of a negative connotation doesn't it? It implies they have no inherent value or are some how selfish in nature. Maybe that is why my husband has none. hmm?

I reflect on my own hobbies, those things which give me pleasure, though I don't yet concede they are engaged in primarily for pleasure:

Playing the piano.

I shall take each in turn to defend it as having inherent worth or at least something more than a selfish indulgence.

Writing. I have written before about why I personally write. See my very first post. Writing is by nature a form of self expression, but I do not believe that makes it inherently selfish. One writes to express something and when one writes well, it is to express a truth. Coming to know a truth through writing or encouraging another to delve deeper into truth through reading must have some value beyond mere pleasure.

Playing the piano. Again, I have discussed this subject before (My Music 10/25/10). If music is your hobby: playing, composing, listening to; do I even need to defend it? Music has to be the language of angels. While those of us who mark music as a hobby rather than a profession or a passion, we are, it seems, participating in the world of those who speak the language of angels. I can't seem to wrap my mind around the notion that Mozart was simply indulging his own pleasure, and for me to enjoy his creation for a similar reason would some how taint his original purpose. No, I do not simply enjoy his music, I am transformed by it. I admit that some modern music, the lyrics at least, seems to be an exercise in self-centered catharsis, but if it has a catchy tune or a foot stomping beat, it transcends the self-centered nature of its creator. While I do not deny the pleasure involved, music can make us bold or courageous, tender hearted or empathetic. It has the ability to move us and make us feel something for someone other than ourselves.

Decorating. My decorating is a joke in my smaller circle. My poor sister often came home to a new arrangement of furniture in our shared room. The only time I remember her complaining about it was when I pushed our dressers back to back in the center of the room in the attempt to give it a circular effect. "The book shelves block the light, I can't see to read," she said. I have heard it has the name of Feng shui, though I admit I have done absolutely no research on it, but furniture speaks to me. A perfectly fine room begins to bug me: A chair seems uncomfortable where it stands, a couch cries out for a new pillow, a throw rug longs to be angled in a new way. Don't ask me, ask the Chinese. But the inanimate objects around me from about the age of seven have found themselves constantly turned, twisted and shaped into new forms... For my own pleasure? Okay, so I just looked up Fen shui on the internet. No, not for my own pleasure, to improve life, to release positive energy.

Okay, maybe I don't buy that. But there was something of the thing involved in it all along. My decorating at Christmas is always similar: same trinkets, balls, lights. But it is always a bit different. I have to see it before I know. The snow globe with the three silver angels looked fine on the right last year, but not this year. The balls are not evenly spaced, they are Sheila spaced, and I kid you not, that I will move a ball around six times before it seems satisfied where it is. And how do I make you understand: It is not me, it is the ball that has the problem. I am not dumb enough to believe that anyone else will notice the 8th of an inch, but when it is in the right spot, there is a harmony.

Okay, this one is the hardest to defend. I may seek the harmony for my own peace of mind. Quite possible. But it doesn't feel that way. It really feels as if the candle is not happy and I need to try harder to find the right spot for it. At any rate, it is not merely seeking pleasure, it is, if nothing else, seeking harmony. And at the end of the day, whether it really is about the 1/8 inch or not, my home is inviting. The furniture has managed to get itself arranged in a way that encourages conversation, the rug invites people to come sit by the fire, the harmony of the things is really about the people who enter the door.

I decorate I guess because if I believe it feels right, then my guests will feel welcome. Because right to me is, was and always will be about hospitality. It was why I immediately ditched the circular effect in our shared room. Not that I was about hospitality with my sister back then, but because I knew hers was a legitimate complaint. If reading is what you do in your room and you can't do it, something is wrong. I then went for a maze effect. We both loved it.

So what are your hobbies? Do you have any? If you do, I will defend them. The best hobbies are not engaged in primarily for pleasure. Let me say it a different way, they are activities that give tremendous pleasure, yes, but that is not why we primarily engage in them. Fishing, hunting, painting, reading, skiing, origami, carpentry... My guess is you do them because you find pleasure in the task. But if you really thought about it, you do them because they make you a better person. And I don't care what Webster says. A hobby is An activity or interest pursued outside one's regular occupation which brings pleasure and enriches ones life and the lives of those around him.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sheila, I do not know if you remember me but we also adopted from Ethiopia through Children's Hope. We were both on the yahoo chat group at the same time. That it is why I am trying to reach you. I remember a time when you wrote about a story you made up to tell your adopted child about being adopted. I keep thinking how much I liked how you worded it. I am struggling to come up with a way to tell it to our daughter but did not save the email where you shared it. Would you be willing to share it with me again.
    My email is thank you So MUCH! Kay Heikes