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.
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 alien values like “the pursuit of excellence” have crept into and corrupted what was once the realm of leisure, leaving little room for the true amateur.
The population of our country now seems divided between the semipro hobbyists (some as devoted as Olympic athletes) and those who retreat into the passive, screeny leisure that is the signature of our technological moment.But demanding excellence in all that we do can undermine that; it can threaten and even destroy freedom.It steals from us one of life’s greatest rewards — the simple pleasure of doing something you merely, but truly, enjoy.Tim Wu (@superwuster) is a law professor at Columbia, the author of “The Attention Merchants: The Epic Struggle to Get Inside Our Heads” and a contributing opinion writer. I think this derailment occurs to many non-professional writers and it makes me very sad.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.What if you decide in your 40s, as I have, that you want to learn to surf?What if you decide in your 60s that you want to learn to speak Italian? Liberty and equality are supposed to make possible the pursuit of happiness.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.