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It would be unfortunate if we were to protect the means only to neglect the end.A democracy, when it is working correctly, allows men and women to develop into free people; but it falls to us as individuals to use that opportunity to find purpose, joy and contentment. And I'd be lying if I said I never questioned my parenting. I question myself because I want what's best for my kids.
The idea of leisure, after all, is a hard-won achievement; it presupposes that we have overcome the exigencies of brute survival.
Yet here in the United States, the wealthiest country in history, we seem to have forgotten the importance of doing things solely because we enjoy them. Between work and family and social obligations, where are we supposed to find the time?
Our “hobbies,” if that’s even the word for them anymore, have become too serious, too demanding, too much an occasion to become anxious about whether you are really the person you claim to be.
If you’re a jogger, it is no longer enough to cruise around the block; you’re training for the next marathon.
Super Mom has her kids signed up for, their adorable matchy-matchy family photos, and amazing (and frequent) vacations, while I just try to keep my head above water in yoga pants with endless errands to run.
While I used to drive myself crazy because I know I can't even try to compete with that, now I throw my hands up in happy defeat. Looking back, you will find that the best years of, say, scuba-diving or doing carpentry were those you spent on the learning curve, when there was exaltation in the mere act of doing.In a way that we rarely appreciate, the demands of excellence are at war with what we call freedom.There is more to writing than excellence or even publication.There is also the profound self-knowledge and self-expression we can achieve when we put our fingers to the keyboard (or pen to paper).But there’s a deeper reason, I’ve come to think, that so many people don’t have hobbies: We’re afraid of being bad at them.Or rather, we are intimidated by the expectation — itself a hallmark of our intensely public, performative age — that we must actually be skilled at what we do in our free time.I’m a little surprised by how many people tell me they have no hobbies.It may seem a small thing, but — at the risk of sounding grandiose — I see it as a sign of a civilization in decline.If you’re a painter, you are no longer passing a pleasant afternoon, just you, your watercolors and your water lilies; you are trying to land a gallery show or at least garner a respectable social media following.When your identity is linked to your hobby — you’re a yogi, a surfer, a rock climber — you’d better be good at it, or else who are you?