DUNLEAVY: Cultivation of hobbies needed for strong personal growth


Column: Tempus Fugit

Enjoyment of media — that is, favorite shows, books, movies and such forth — is largely a matter of personal taste.  

Habits and culture absolutely play a role in affecting this taste, but certainly are not the sole deciding factor. People like what they like, and there is nothing wrong with this. 

All works are not created equal, of course. But lauding erudition, craftsmanship and artistic sophistication does not necessitate the denigration of other works. Let people enjoy what they enjoy. I say this with a caveat — we should each take care to curate what we consume, for our own sake.

It is important to note that the media an individual consumes is very capable of influencing their opinion and views and how they are constructed, at least abstractly. Watching something ironically is still watching something, and whatever way you feel about a work, you are still feeling something, and that is a big deal.

If a work of art manages to strongly evoke any emotion, whatever that may be, it has succeeded — so some consideration must be given to even unlikely examples of television, as an example, which manages to do the same.

There is a Kurt Vonnegut quote which I feel applies here: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” There should be no shame in a sort-of guilty pleasure, but perhaps it is wise to take a moment beforehand with the guiltiest of pleasures and more critically consider what is going on.  

Similarly, social pulls are very capable of influencing the media individuals choose to consume — most people do not want to be the only person out of the loop. This is fine, but again, individuals must always consider themselves in the equation. 

I have known people who have suffered through reading a couple of thousands of pages of self-proclaimed misery, in order to not be out of the loop.  

I have known people who sat through hours of art films they considered wholly impenetrable, just to lord their cultured taste over others. I pose the question: Is this minute utility, is the imperceptible social advantage really worth that much time? Everyone has an obligation to do the best for themselves. A little bit of thought and effort, and leisure time can be made much more enjoyable. 

It is foolish to mock the personal preference of another, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying whatever one is inclined to, but the way an individual allows this to manifest is worthy of consideration.  

In this regard, I am a constant advocate for practical and productive hobbies. Nothing is wrong with occasionally plopping down after a long day and just taking it easy, but the cultivation of skills is, in the long term, substantially more satisfying use of time.

 Again, personal taste plays a role here – but I wholly doubt there are more than a tremendous few who cannot find anything they enjoy more than sitting back and non-critically indulging in a show, movie or book. These are fine ways to pass the time, but in order to really create room for self-development, other hobbies should be given consideration.  

Learning a language is a fantastic, albeit difficult choice. But not everything needs to be so in-depth. Learning to draw, learning to sew and knit, learning to cook, exercising, painting, learning music — all of these are excellent pastimes an individual can pick up in their free time and will yield profoundly more considerable results down the line.  

As noted earlier, it is at the very least wise to learn to critically and thoughtfully consume media, instead of just taking it all in. Knowledge of how something is constructed, having the ability to break down the techniques used in the filming of a motion picture and the impression this has on the final result, appreciating the exact use of language in a book and the wider implication of the ideas and messages therein. 

It is neither expensive, nor particularly difficult to cultivate this understanding, but doing so provides the ability to appreciate things on a much fuller, much more aware level.  

It is not even so important what is, in particular, chosen — let this come down to personal preference.  Ultimately, the satisfaction of a practiced, trained ability and an enjoyable and productive way to pass the time is the end goal here.  

Whatever the choice may be, there are plenty of convenient and affordable ways to pursue activities and hobbies that are, long term, much more satisfying than more conventional alternatives. Without a doubt, there is something for everybody.

Ash C. Dunlevy is a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior majoring in plant science as well as agriculture and food systems. His column, "Tempus Fugit," runs on alternate Mondays.

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