Passionate Hobbyists

Earlier today I was introduced to Dennis Prager via Fireside Chat Ep. 84, where he strongly suggests people get a hobby. He then goes on to explain why people should have a hobby and why some things people consider a hobby are more of a pastime. Ultimately I agree that people need to have a creative activity that can be enjoyed during leisure time. In my case I have several very different passions that I can engage in when stepping away from the computer, but I understand this is not particularly common in adults. Yet, while I agree with the central idea that people should have hobbies, I wonder just how many people honestly have no creative outlet in their life.

In the YouTube video, Dennis makes a couple of interesting statements:

  • the more passions you have, the happier you'll be1
  • a hobby is to create something beautiful
  • watching something is not the same as creating something, therefore "watching movies" is not a hobby
  • a pastime, such as a video game, is not a hobby
  • technology has made our passions extinct2

The first two points I generally agree with. One could argue the point about creating something beautiful but, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The last three points I can disagree with on semantics, as some people enjoy reviewing movies that they watch, making the act of watching part of the hobby. Some people enjoy creative games, such as Minecraft, SimCity, and others. I would contend that people can certainly create something beautiful in the virtual world of a game. The last point, however, I disagree with. Technology may have changed the sorts of pursuits that people are passionate about, but passion is still very much part of what makes our hobbies worthwhile.

Kids Today …

There's no denying that I have a multitude of hobbies that all bring me varying degrees of joy, depending on how knowledgeable and/or competent I might wish to be3. However, I have been described — in polite conversation — as a walking edge case. What I have seen first hand with my community volunteering4, though, is that kids today are just as creative and passionate as I was thirty years ago and as kids likely were a century ago. Where we focus our passions has changed. Nothing more.

One difference that I see with young people around here compared to when I was their age has to do with ramp-up time. If someone wants to try something new, they can generally get started quickly, cheaply, and easily thanks to a plethora of applications and YouTube videos. I've learned more about photography since the boy was born thanks to professional photographers on YouTube sharing concepts like framing, tilt-shifting, bokeh, and more. Sure, an application could probably do all of these things for me, but I want to use my nicer Canon DSLR camera. This means investing the time into learning how to do things with the tools available to me. Kids can do the same with just as much ease.

Case in point is a young girl down the street who wanted to make a cartoon featuring her new kitten. She downloaded an app for her tablet5, did all the preliminary work of drawing, colouring, and adding some music that she composed in GarageBand herself, then showed the whole neighbourhood (literally) what she created. Now she's talking about wanting to become an animator and learning more about this form of art than she might have otherwise. The technology made it possible for her to explore an idea, make something she found amazing, and then springboard to the next level. Whether she chooses to pursue a career in art or animation is irrelevant at this point. She is passionate and she is learning.

Having a creative hobby is a wonderful thing and I would encourage everybody to have at least one. For many, a hobby may be put on hold for a lack of time, a lack of resources, or a lack of "safe space"6. To suggest that a person's lack of passion is the result of modern technology is a bit of a stretch, though.

  1. This is what he calls the Happiness Theory

  2. He is not at all anti-technology. He explains in the video that the amazing technology so many of us take for granted has pacified us with all its convenience.

  3. At last count and not including hobbies that are not related to programming or otherwise non-creative uses of time? Five. Baking, gardening, sketching, writing, podcasting and photography. However, I also really enjoy reading and listening to podcasts. While these may not be creative in the moment, what I learn from the books or audio can certainly be put to use later.

  4. I participate in a robotics course during the summer holidays, teaching kids how to program and think problems through to find solutions. Both girls and boys attend the sessions and they generally range from 7 to 15 years of age.

  5. I think it was her father's tablet, but kids generally use whatever they want. Parents will allow it so long as there's a little bit of quiet in the house.

  6. Try having a nice model railroad set in the house with a toddler. Tears will be shed.