Tuesday, January 1, 2019
Thoughts on "In Praise of Mediocrity" on this first day of 2019
I have been thinking about something on and off for a few months now. It hasn't consumed me, but it's been there lingering. The September 29, 2018 issue of The New York Times included an opinion piece by Tim Wu, titled "In Praise of Mediocrity." Mr. Wu's premise is that the reason that most Americans do not have hobbies as we did decades ago is not because we lack leisure time*, but for an entirely different reason: "We're afraid of being bad at them." He posits that seemingly everything we now do comes with an "expectation of excellence." We have been culturally programmed that we can't have casual pursuits; we must practice these leisure time activities at the highest level.
"But there is also a real and pure joy, a sweet, childlike delight, that comes from just learning and trying to get better." This is his counterpoint. I could not agree more. I learn something new from every project I undertake. However, as someone who is always trying to produce the most accurate replicas possible, and one who I humbly submit already practices the craft of my hobby at a fairly high level, I do not see how the pursuit of excellence detracts at all from my joy and delight. If anything, it is what provides those very comforts since it is excellence on my own terms, not anyone else's. If it failed to deliver satisfaction and pleasure, I wouldn't do it any longer. I find that the very fact that it is a hobby and the fact that I continue to do it makes it pleasurable. Why else would I?
How do you feel about the approach you take to our hobby?
*Mr. Wu is not a social scientist and presents no hard data to back up his supposition regarding free time. I think that in the aggregate, we do have less leisure or free time, as expectations with jobs and careers have morphed dramatically; the internet and smart phones have allowed us to be "on" as much as we want (or can tolerate) and employers carry this expectation. Those same changes have affected how we view (either actively or passively) leisure time and hobbies. The distraction of the TV was a speck on a gnat's behind compared to the distractions offered by the collective Youtube, Hulu, Netflix, cable, Amazon et al universe. It's a lot easier to do nothing...