Thursday, January 29, 2009

Questioning A Passion

Is there an inherent validity to a passion, a talent?

If there is something I love to do, but it is not deeply meaningful in an obvious way, do I have the right to pursue it? Is it right to devote huge amounts of time and energy to an activity simply because I enjoy it, because it excites me in a unique way, because it is a side of myself I don't often get to hone? Or is succumbing to such a passion merely a weakness, if that activity is not as significant as other things I could be doing with my time?

What is the point of hobbies, in general? Is there a point? Are they a waste of time?

Am I selfish for wanting this so much, despite the inevitable sacrifices?


Erachet said...

because I enjoy it, because it excites me in a unique way, because it is a side of myself I don't often get to hone

If it's not an activity that is harmful or detrimental to you, then there is your answer. Why'd you stick a "simply" in front of that?

And now I shall go back to not being able to sleep.

SJ said...

Erachet - I don't really think that's an answer. Why should I spend time on just 'anything' that isn't harmful? Isn't time more precious than such a dismissive answer indicates?

And just to clarify, this post is not about writing. I believe that writing does have inherent value and therefore would not fall under the category of activities I am asking about.

Josh M. said...

What is the origin of this right (or lack thereof)? If you're approaching the question from a halachic standpoint, I'm not sure that the concept of a right exists.

SJ said...

Josh - I am aware that halachically there is no concept of rights, merely obligations.

I am not asking whether I have a God-given inviolable right to pursue my passion; rather, is it a wise, a justified decision to do so? It is not a halachic query, but a hashkafic or philosophical one, if you will--or perhaps, more simply, a practical one.

Josh M. said...

Your post reads as more of a moral question than a practical one, but if one is looking at the question from the latter sense, I believe that it could be defended from a psychological standpoint, and perhaps also from the perspective of a valuation of personal diversification (not for its own sake, but due to the potential of later use).

One must decide what the end is that's being sacrificed by hobbies. A philatelist could argue that his stamps are, indeed, the essence of his life, and that any time or money not spent on them is wasteful. If, though, you're trying to stake out a position regarding haderech sheyavor lo haadam while ignoring the concept of obligations, I believe that my answer applies.

Ezzie said...


Erachet said...

Do you think God gifted people with talents for no reason? What about those who are affected by your talent? Is it worthwhile to affect those people?

SJ said...

Josh M. - when I called the decision a “practical” one, I did not mean to strip it of its moral context, by any means. Rather, I intended to convey that I require a moral/rational justification of some sort in order to allow me to pursue it—therefore making the question innately practical.

And while any investment of time creates inevitable sacrifices, I am asking the question under the assumption that no basic halachic obligations will be neglected in favor of this passion.

That said, I’m not sure I entirely understand your essential point.

Ezzie – quite a cryptic comment--care to elaborate?

Erachet – the question of why God gives people various talents is an interesting one. Yet, it is clear that He created certain talents with intrinsic limits (for instance, women with beautiful voices are extremely limited in their ability to pursue that talent). So the fact that you have an ability does not mean that you are immediately justified in honing it to whatever extent you choose. And as to people affected by the talent—if people were really going to be affected in a positive way by this activity, it would indeed be an important factor to consider. However, this is not necessarily the case.

Ezzie said...

? Not meant to be cryptic, just basic... It's a very vague post, obviously; without knowing what you're referring to it's difficult to even attempt to weigh the factors.

That said, it seems that as with anything one would like to do, a balance must be made between what one would like to do and the sacrifices required to do it - and this will vary from situation to situation, person to person, and often from time to time. The larger the sacrifice one is making, the more sure they should be of the "reward" they are receiving.

Beyond that, (and more specific to hobbies and the like) not everything one does needs to be or should be eminently practical. Even with that, a person must balance that with reality and the sacrifices made, but the balance is much more weighted - larger sacrifices would be worthwhile because of the happiness, fulfillment, and accomplishment that would come with it.

Or, in other words... Balance. :)

Josh M. said...

I think we're arguing semantics to some extent, as I agree with your response to my last comment. I believe, though that psychological benefits and personal diversification (the former of which being more similar to Ezzie's answer of balance), are two reasons why it can be considered wise to pursue a hobby that does not produce obvious fruits. Your referring to it as a right strikes me as being overly apologetic if what you're looking for is a practical path.

G said...

--I love to do, but it is not deeply meaningful

--simply because I enjoy it, because it excites me in a unique way,

Those statements make no sense.

Northern Light said...

If our talents and interests are bestowed by God, and they can bring positive emotion and zeal for life into the world and you--why do you agonize over it? I agree with Ezzie--balance between the "oughts" and the "permitted desires" is the way to go.