Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Importance Of Productive Hobbies

Hobby. That is a word that has gradually faded from our vocabulary. When I was a child, I had hobbies like wood burning, model airplane building, collecting little NFL helmets out of a 25 cent machine, coin collecting, etc. Though some of these hobbies were not "productive", in the sense that nothing tangible was produced at the end of a session of lining up all my little helmets in an "I" formation, what was produced in my imagination was profound. I later became very involved in electronics, and built my own AM radio. I became a Ham radio operator
(Tech+ WE6UTJ). I had a rock collection. I soldered capacitors into guitar amplifiers to change their tone. I re-built a rusted Mo-Ped that my brother no longer wanted from scratch. My friend Tom and I spent hours trying to hammer out the piston which was fused to the side of the cylinder. I had a wooden board with all 50 states that I had to insert into the right location. These are things that require the "production" of imagination. I used to daydream for hours about what it must look like in Ohio. This may have sparked my facination with travel. I have now visited 48 of the 50 states (N. Dakota and Alaska are on my list). I still can feel the wooden piece in my hand, and the little water wheel that it had painted on it. The rocks would glisten in my hand, and I would wonder if they had accidentally placed a rare precious stone into the pre-packed kit of quartz, granite and pyrite. I used to fix my bmx bike up with all kinds of parts that worked just the way I wanted them to in just the right color scheme. I had hobbies - lots of them.

I worry about my ability to instill such joys in the life of my son, who is now three. He has many, many toys, a bike, a tricycle and a deck of all 43 presidents - he can identify them all now, including President Obama. But he also has many flashing, beeping objects around him, and the ever-so-invasive television. Maybe it is chic for parents to over-worry these days, or maybe something really is awakening in me that is a legitimate fear. I watched TV as a child, but there were 7 channels...4 that had good reception. I had electronic toys, but only one or two, and they were radio-controlled cars that required action on my part. So my challenge is to re-ignite my own passion for productive hobbies, to instill that sense of wonder and joy for the simple act of building or collecting something. I want nothing more than to build things with my son, and watch his imagination grow. I have my doubts that his toy laptop computer will stimulate him this way.