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There's an absence of civilizational narrative through-line, presently. Which might be another way of saying individuals don't see themselves as part of a larger, more timeless system the way they used to. A lot of what you're talking about in the second part of your essay isn't just art, it's cultural infrastructure. And just like we don't seem to be able to collectively get much constructive done politically, socially, or civically, we don't seem to be making art for a superorganism that will outlive the maker. No excuses though. Art, I think, has the most potential to get civilization "back on track" (whatever that means). It's the only kind of "content" that transcends and transfigures argument. So, more essays like this one, that ask us not to forget that.

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This is beautifully put - thank you. I’m reminded of Churchill’s response to the nation’s push for the reallocation of funding (from the arts to the military) during the war: “what then are we fighting FOR?”

Art, especially, is where the saying “vote with your dollar” matters. What you patronize today shapes your culture tomorrow. Art represents our highest ideals, no wonder it shapes the cultural infrastructure - people need something to hold onto for meaning, whether or not it’s expressed consciously.

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Great references.

Coincident with what you're saying--with repetitive work being automated, and fancy/fireworks-y/big-effect art being something non-humans can do, it seems that our simple essays, poems, photos, etc., may end up being central to our lives again. Let's hope.

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Thanks that was great! My life got better when I started reading and creating on substack instead of consuming mind rubbish!

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Lovely essay. You make an important distinction between pleasure and enjoyment. And for a while I have toyed with the thought that "enchantment" is a fine description as well. There are many good things that have lost their enchanting factor so they seem ordinary. As well, many ordinary things (like cooking) can become enchanting by simply pouring joy into it (enjoir).

Curiosity may also be a way of giving joy to something. Just asking "what have you got there?" to anything, or even asking "what do you enjoy about this weird activity" to a friend's weird hobby may change how you see the world forever.

Thank you for writing this.

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Thank you for reading! I find that most people (including myself) did not get to enjoy the mundane things until work/school/other obligations crowded out their schedules so that the mundane activities were the only time they could enjoy themselves.

The ordinary is more than enough when you pour yourself into it. Some call it "enjoying the small things in life", some call it "living in the moment", which are both true :) By just focusing on what you're doing in the present and trying to get as good at it as you possibly can, you make every second of the ordinary feel like it matters.

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My life got better when I got rid of the television. I gave myself time to read, sew, sketch, cook, and write a PhD. Great ideas here, though, Sherry. Thankyou. I needed this because I finish the studies in December and will have lots more free time!

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Amazing :) something I notice in myself is that I find it harder to dive into a time-intensive activity like reading after scrolling on Instagram...as if my brain got fried...

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Aug 10, 2023Liked by Sherry Ning

I think the issue may be that everyone wants a hobby they can turn into a side hustle. I used to do so many things that I loved and, for some reason, I've just stopped. I think I tried turning them into businesses and that always creates anxiety for me, and then I just give up. Hobbies for hobbies sake sounds like the solution. I've taken up reading philosophy at night and that's just for it's own sake. A hobby, of sorts. Thanks for the reminder to enjoy.

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Aug 13, 2023Liked by Sherry Ning

This essay and your comment reminded me of something my father would say,” A hobby is something you do that you enjoy and that wastes your money and time.” The first part fits in with the essayist’s meaning of enjoy. The second part was more tongue in cheek but follows your comment about how a hobby should not be equated with a side hustle.

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I love that haha I find that many hobbies are "useless" from the pragmatic/productive/evolutionarily beneficial/whatever perspective...I guess this is harder to realize when we're very young (because we had so much time and so little pressure), but as leisure became more prized, we start treasuring our "useless" activities more. So what if doing something doesn't make money? So what if there isn't an audience? Useless things become useful when it's personally significant. I'm reminded of the quote, "time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time." (Bertrand Russell)

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Aug 13, 2023Liked by Sherry Ning

What else should we waste time and money on? In the end, money is best enjoyed on hobbies.

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When I left corporate, one of the greatest shockers I had was noticing how my college friends who were hardcore on prioritizing earnings (and the FYRE crowd) ended up having little to no time spending what they earned.

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Another clear and perceptive essay. I often think about matters of artistic quality when using substack. The platform mingles enjoyment with pleasure, in the senses you outline, by offering the opportunity to share the fruits of sincere, happy labour, and receive a shot of social media endorphins. It's hard not to be distracted from longer term goals by the flickers of recognition intimated by likes and alerts.

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Thank you for reading!

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Lovely words. Work has totally consumed our lives and made us feel like we always need to be productive. Even if we’re engaging in a hobby, there’s this desire to convert it into a lucrative side hustle. Business Insider just published an article on this idea. But I really like how Aristotle breaks down personal time into 3 categories: work, play or recreation, and leisure. He argues that we should define ourselves more so by our leisure rather than our work where recreation and work should be viewed as a means to acquire more time for leisure. I like this categorization of time and love how you draw attention to a need for thinking beyond our own lifetime. It’s a practice more people, and especially anyone who engages in creative projects or shares their work publicly, should engage in. As a species and society, we’re so shortsighted right now in a moment when we desperately need to be thinking far into the future.

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Interesting...I didn't know about the 3 categories - thanks for sharing that. The productivity craze is so opposite of this, because so much of what we measure as being "productive" is actually created during rest (especially for the creative type). The mind needs leisure and boredom like muscles need rest and sleep after an intense workout.

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I like how you are able to acknowledge the reality of the situation. What do you think has caused the shift from an active mind to a passive pleasurable one?

I'm of the said generation too, and I have some guesses on why it is. People are not obsessed with their skills and crafts. It was the big reason why university was a thing for obsessed people looking for even more. Now, we are told from as young as we can think to not be out of line, or obsessed with specific things, and university is just for your own benefit to find a job.

The obsession from men is a powerful thing, and there are few men today that have that.

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There's definitely something biological about it - it's much easier to find ourselves attracted to passive pleasures (eg. bodily sensations) than rewarding challenges (eg. hiking).

Robert Cain mentioned in the comment above, about the distinction between play and leisure. When we talk about work-life balance, people typically only think that "life" means leisure and rest (and, from my personal experience in corporate, this is true...most people would spend their time eating at restaurants and doing other pleasurable activities instead of investing in a skill-related hobby). We've totally forgotten about the necessity of play, not just leisure. Play requires skill and dedication.

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Aug 10, 2023Liked by Sherry Ning

I really like this and resonated! Been needing this message alot.

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Aug 14, 2023Liked by Sherry Ning

Great essay, I really enjoyed reading this! (I think, or it was pleasurable). I feel like I should do something different today...

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Ha :D thanks for reading, Jeremy, I'm glad it spoke to you

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True art, true beauty, is transcendent of language.

After graduating, I’ve been thinking a lot on hobbies to cultivate that are intrinsically rewarding. Especially in the evenings, once the cognitive capacity of my brain dwindles.

Loved this Sherry :)

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Thank you for reading, Tommy :) Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time...

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Love this so much! I'm just writing about the creative process and the importance of having a hobby just for the fun of it instead of trying to immediatly capitalise on it. Do you mind if I share a link to this article?

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Thanks for reading! Not at all, please do :)

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Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has a beautiful chart in his book "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience" to explain this concept of matching challenge and skills = enjoyment (flow state). I wish I could attach a pdf, but the best I can do is link the google search lol -- apologies in advance for the obnoxious link:

https://www.google.com/search?q=flow+the+psychology+of+optimal+experience+Mihaly+Csikszentmihalyi+chart+&tbm=isch&ved=2ahUKEwjA0ubc59KAAxXQNEQIHZj6BPcQ2-cCegQIABAA&oq=flow+the+psychology+of+optimal+experience+Mihaly+Csikszentmihalyi+chart+&gs_lcp=CgNpbWcQAzoICAAQCBAHEB46BggAEAgQHlCPIljiRWDGR2gAcAB4AIABYIgByQaSAQIxMZgBAKABAaoBC2d3cy13aXotaW1nwAEB&sclient=img&ei=YjjVZMCZEdDpkPIPmPWTuA8&bih=796&biw=934

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I LOVE this I've been reading this book, "Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention." :D

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People are puzzles in themselves, a last resort to 'pay with'. Otherwise, a great read is 'With Folded Hands' by Jack Williamson, written in 1947 (it could have been written today with the same spirit).

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There are far too many options available to us right now. Social media is a barrage of successful people in varying fields and exposure to them pulls the consumer in countless directions. Too many people seek quick fame and attention. The true artists are in love with the process, there is no end game for the artist.

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I really liked your essay! My favorite line was: “I believe that the people who have dedicated their entire lives to a craft are not “playing in decades”—in fact, they’re not even thinking within their own timelines, they’re thinking on God’s timeline. They know that the beauty and the significance of what they’re doing will outlive them, both in terms of time and importance.” Especially the thought of God’s timeline CS ours.

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