I've been thinking about hobbies lately. In my current location I have not had many distractions. No TV, no video games, etc. Yet, I have kept myself busy and entertained. I go running (which kills an hour, easy, once you throw in time to take a shower and such) almost every day. I play chess. I practice a foreign language. I read. I clean my weapons. I find all of these things enjoyable and relaxing.
It has made me think about hobbies and time. I feel like I have a lot of time out here because I am not wasting any commuting, having my soul sucked out by the TV, or playing video games. Even just coming home from work (20 mins), playing some video games to unwind (1 hour), and then watching TV after dinner (1.5 hours) is a huge time sink. That's 2.5 hours a day, or about a quarter of my non-work waking hours.
This isn't to say that I'll throw my big screen out when I return home (ESPN... college... gameday... can't... resist!). But I think I will tone down the time wasters significantly. If I have a choice between two activities, both of which are entertaining, but one of which is also productive, I should choose the latter. I used to do this all the time in the Sims video game when I made my Sims do fun tasks that they also learn from (like astronomy or playing chess to learn "science" skills). So why don't I apply this idea better in real life?
I think that we should try to cultivate hobbies that help us get to where we want to be in life. If a hobby doesn't contribute to a useful skill set (especially one you can use in work or for a side job) then you should reconsider the time and money investment. For example, you could collect beanie babies, but the same money and energy spent on photography or cooking or astronomy or gun collecting would be much more useful. Unless you want to be a professional beanie baby collector, the former hobby is not useful at all.
Now, if you are someone who only enjoys useless shit, then it sucks to be you. However, I think most of us can find useful or potentially useful hobbies.
An elaboration on usefulness of hobbies would be the inclusion of enlightening hobbies. I've focused a lot on the mechanical arts (cooking, weaving, building, etc), but the liberal arts are important too. Reading literature or playing music or studying history helps make us better citizens and well rounded human beings.
I think it'd be interesting to keep track of daily activities in a time diary for a week or two. See where all the time goes. I bet most people have at least two hours a day that just disappears, not to mention money. With a bit of effort and will, that time and energy could be refocused into something that either teaches a useful skill or helps you be a better person, AND is fun/relaxing. Research (Putnam) has shown that the biggest predictor of someone's social capital is time spent in front of the TV; I bet the same is true for skills and enlightenment as well.
I just don't have enough hours in the day to waste time constantly. Grossman writes in "On Combat" that warriors need to have warrior hobbies that they both enjoy and use to sharpen the sword. That is because warriors have jobs that are literally life or death. However, everyone who takes their work and goals seriously could live by this perspective too. Or, if you don't like your current work, get a hobby that develops skills that could lead to a new field.
Camera Land's Deal of the Day - 5/23/2013
36 minutes ago