I thought this next blog post was going to be about another stitching project, but I’m going to take a little side track and save that idea for the next post and instead go with the flow. I saw a reference to an article in the New York Times and that brief reference was enough for me to go read the entire article. I think it is well worth a few minutes of sharing my thoughts here.
The title as found in the NY Times is “In Praise of Mediocrity” by Tim Wu (published online on Sept 29, 2018 and in print on Sept 30, 2018) and I admit if I had seen that title either online or in the paper, I would have skipped right over it. I would have no idea how much it was related to something important in my life. Luckily, the little blurb I saw (and then referenced the NY Times article) was titled “Why people don’t have hobbies” and that caught my attention. I saw this blurb, a summary really of the original article, in the magazine The Week, October 12, 2018.
The NY Times article can be found here
A few key sentences if you don’t want to go read the entire thing (which is not very long, by the way):
“I’m surprised by how many people tell me they have no hobbies.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Lost here is the gentle pursuit of a modest competence, the doing of something just because you enjoy it, not because you are good at it.”
“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.”
“I don’t deny that you can derive a lot of meaning from pursuing an activity at the highest level. I would never begrudge someone a lifetime devotion to a passion or an inborn talent. There are depths of experience that come with mastery. But there is also a real and pure joy, a sweet, childlike delight, that comes from just learning and trying to get better. “
There is a side of me that wants to bring to Tim Wu’s attention this amazing world of stitching and the stitchers I have grown to know and love. We do indeed do what we do because we enjoy it. Most, I’ll go ahead and say 99.9% of us, are not afraid of being bad at it – we just keep trying. Maybe a particular project doesn’t quite turn out as we might want, but we just pick up a different one. Some stitchers might go after “mastery” (whatever that means). But, absolutely, we are a lucky group because we do experience “a real and pure joy…from just learning and trying to get better.” And I’ll add, just simply enjoying what we are doing by stitching. Putting thread into fabric. Bringing to life a design that just sings to us.
I struggle sometimes (well, I’ll say all the time) with the use of the word “hobby” to describe stitching in my world. Because, frankly, it feels like so much more than that. I feel lost on a day that I cannot stitch. It absolutely helps calm me down when I’m upset, that rhythmic pulling of my needle and thread. When there is a good memory or moment to mull over, I want to do that while I’m stitching. When I want to work through a dilemma, I want to do that while I’m stitching (although, in that case, simple, non-thinking kind of stitching!). It is why I often refer to stitching as a “passion” rather than a hobby.
But, for the sake of what Tim Wu is talking about, yes, stitching falls under the category of hobby. And I love that, thanks to the digital world and the connections made through Flosstube, Facebook, Instagram, and the like, I can say to Tim Wu, “As a matter of fact, I actually do know a lot of people who have a hobby. And love it and pursue it passionately.”
We are very very lucky people that have stitching in our lives. I do think about this whenever I am with or thinking about non-stitching friends who don’t have something equivalent in their life. So, for that and so much more, I am very, very grateful.
I kind of want to write a response to Tim Wu, to let him know about our stitching world.
A related article that the NYTimes pointed out to me: The Case for Having a Hobby