Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Hobbitual Side of Life

The Burglar has been posting his daily thoughts at a rate like never before and it has convinced me that I no longer have any good excuses to not post. I have recently proved the resurrection of the dead by taking up the practice of daily journalling, and perhaps the energy expended there is the reason for a lack of blogging enthusiasm (not to mention the new baby, who is infinitely more adorable than computers).

In any case, a couple days ago I ran into a vocabulary lapse in the English language and decided to remedy it. Of course, there very may well be a word that already covers this perceived hole, and I am simply unaware. Miro: what is the adjectival form of "hobby"?

I have a hobby of collecting baseball cards. Collecting baseball cards is a _______ activity? My first instinct was that hobby and habit are related, but that does not seem to be the case. Hobby has a slightly confusing entymology (see here and here, but it is certainely not related to habit. So, here is my solution, by association.

I have a habit of smoking.
Smoking is a habitual activity.
I have a hobby of collecting cards.
Collecting cards is a hobbitual activity.

This word is very pleasing to me, especially because of the Middle-Earth resonance (which I could expound upon at length, but will refrain myself, you are welcome). I think that hobbits should be understood as very "hobbitual" beings, for they partake of almost every activity in a very hobbitual way, from gardening to smoking, etc.

I actually think that this vocabulary lack says something about our culture. The reference to habitual(ly) immediately jumps into the negative connotations of something that is habitual, ie. addictive compulsive behavior. Why do we not talk about repetitive behavior in a positive light? Even when someone says, "I run habitually" there is the idea inherent that they have forced themselves into an addiction, and we immediately wait for the explanation: "Oh, I need to lose weight," "It calms me down" [Smoker!], or we sometimes accept the "I need to get away from the house" -- but still a compulsive activity.

I would further maintain (confirmed by a random conversation overheard last night) that any devotion to God is viewed, by the populace at large, to be just such an activity. I resent this because it is entirely improper. There are certainely behaviors that are habitual: constant smoking, brushing teeth, shots of liquor before bed, the way you tie your tie; but they are either the worst of addictions or they are mundane. There needs to be a word in common use that conveys those hobbitual activities of life: those activites that we repeatedly choose to do because we enjoy them as they are.

A further entymological point is the original meaning of the word "habit", now only used to refer to monastic garb. (And here I go off a little bit) Since our friend Charlie Marks has blessed us, the philosophical idea of clothes "habituating" us into our various social categories has taken over the concept of what a habit can do, and has given it those inherent negative implications. Further, it has made us afraid of "habituating" activities, most especially religious education or devotion, and Sayers-ian classical education. I maintain that the human will by nature is not automaton, and the fact that repetitive activity is something that is inherent to all humans is not something to be demonized, but celebrated in its right application. Nor should those bodies who take into account hobbitual man be demonized for their correct anthropology.

I propose a non-violent revolution. Use "hobbitual" with your friends and co-workers. Resurrect the hobbitual side of habits, and today freely and guiltlessly choose a repetitive activity that forms your soul and that you enjoy..

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