Yesterday at lunch Brian was talking to me about an article he is researching and writing out of interest in the subject. Referring to it as “just another way to waste some time,” he talked about the stats, the personalities, the realities of the area he is exploring at the moment. Interesting stuff and eventually I’ll probably link to his article should it go anywhere (I’m not giving the subject away at the moment since it’s not the point of this post). I suppose he referred to it as a way to waste time because it’s something he is pursuing for the purpose of personal amusement and accomplishment and it doesn’t have direct bearing on his job or any other aspect of sustaining life.
This is not unlike the way I feel about writing here or taking photos a great deal of the time – even though I get immense gratification out of writing something really good or getting a great shot (and neither of those things would happen without slogging through the bad writing and the less-than-on photos which are part of the process). Because I rarely get paid or recognized formally for the work I produce, it often does seem like I am just wasting my time. Goofing off. Fucking around.
It doesn’t help that there are only two real modes of being that get reflected in dominant culture:
- Doing things because you have to: work, sleeping, eating, exercise. I would include activism and religious activity in this category even though they are less clearly functional.
- Spending time in entertaining consumption (which is not considered a waste of time because we all need recreation): movies, malls, sports, vacations, etc.
And then there is the “hobby”. You know, that quirky thing you are into that doesn’t pay the bills and your friends think is “cute” or “weird”. The hobby is uncool and downright geeky. Especially if it involves developing some special skill that takes a lot of time (SCA-style sword fighting, re-building antique cars, writing haikus, making fine furniture) – like, why would you bother? It’s obviously just another way to kill time. Pretty pointless. Not leading anywhere. Done for amusement’s sake only and you’d do well to be a little embarassed about it.
Never mind that fact that our hobbies are social and bring us into greater networking circles, or that writing every day increases the IQ by as much as 25%, or that mastering an involved skill brings a greater sense of empowerment to every other activity in one’s life. Your role in society is either to make money or spend it. Period.
Of course, this is not true in my constellation (or in anyone else’s). My co-worker volunteers in community theatre, my boyfriend writes academic articles, my father volunteers at a historic artifacts society and rebuilds machines for fun, and many of my friends have developed crazy archaic skills in the SCA. The world around me is actually rich in the experience and skills of others, while our popular culture plays the role of reductionist as usual. If you aren’t a consumer, you are just wasting your time.
Last week, I commented to a friend in LA about not wanting to pursue “superfluous education” in the form of a graduate degree that didn’t apply to my career – to which she responded, “is there any such thing as unneccesary education?” Same question, same answer. Of course not.
One life. No do-overs. Shouldn’t we then experience what we can, develop ourselves along our organic lines and stretch our creative intellect as much as possible? Cause that’s what our species seems inclined to do in optimal circumstances despite the construct our corporations try to make of us.
Curious monkeys we are, that curiosity no less intrinsic to our being as the desire to collect shiny things or the need to feed ourselves. How can that be a waste of time?