Of hobbies and recreation

Did you know that the etymology of the word “hobby” is “hobby”, which meant a small horse?

The word then went on to become “hobby horse”, which was a wooden playhorse for children. It then began to be associated with pastimes, something that was practiced regularly but did not necessarily have a financial reward associated with it.

When I was growing up, stamp collecting, coin collecting and making pen pals were among the top hobbies. Don’t know if they still survive, since I routinely see “surfing”, “reading” and “listening to music” as hobbies on resumes that I receive.

But are they really hobbies, or recreation?

What’s the difference, you may ask. Well, not going by dictionary definitions, in my opinion, a hobby is something that you engage in with passion on a deeper level, while recreation is a pastime or an activity that helps you relax. Listening to music can be recreation, but certainly not a hobby. Making music can be a hobby though.

Hobbies serve a critical purpose in the development of a human being. A child should have hobbies. Instead, parents concentrate on recreational activities.

Yes, they are important as well, but a hobby helps a child develop a keen sense of detail and subject-matter expertise, without the pressure of performance or competition. It is doing something purely for the love of doing it, regardless of the level of expertise to be reached, or any sort of financial inventive. Pure deep work falls into the “paid” part of the same spectrum, and we all know how much that can be rewarding.

Unfortunately, with the advent of the internet and easy access to information, hobbies seem to have taken a backseat in some cases. It is more “instantly” rewarding to surf the net and scroll through Instagram than to take up photography as a hobby for instance. The attention span that is required, and the patience and perseverance needed, are largely absent in today’s fast paced world.

In other cases, hobbies have evolved. You don’t need to have expensive and additional equipment to be a photo hobbyist – an iPhone can serve the purpose. The advances in technology have made white-hat hacking a very popular hobby (and black-hat as well). So, maybe the forms have changed?

Regardless, a hobby is essential, and much recommended. Any hobby – whatever you feel passionate about – gardening, cooking, hiking, traveling…have at least one – and go deep into the subject. Encourage kids to take up hobbies from an early age, and give them the tools needed – show keen interest in their hobbies. You will find that their school scores also show marked improvement.

It’s all about the human psyche – we love doing things from our own initiative – one can only get so far by forcing or pressuring an individual to do something.

So, what’s your hobby?