Hobbyists as Heroes

Today I read an interesting article on Homestead Dreamer that posed the question: Can Your Hobbies Help You Survive?

As the author noted, with some hobbies the survival value is obvious. Backpacking, fishing, parkour, marksmanship, rock climbing, gardening… anything that improves your strength and fitness, or your ability to defend yourself, feed yourself,  find or build shelter, or survive in inclement circumstances.

Other’s are less obvious. Take quilting for example. Yes, a quilt can keep you warm when the heat goes out, but that’s not all quilting teaches. I can sew a seam and appliqué one piece of fabric on top of another. that means I can hem pants, and patch holes in clothes. I can make a bag to carry things. I have fabric that can be used to bind a wound. And because I so often work with reclaimed fabrics, I can use whatever scraps are available and not only transform them into something function, I can turn them into something beautiful, too. And if the power goes out, and I no longer have my machine? I am a passably good hand stitcher, but I could be better. That skill is on my list to improve.

But what about other, less craft-driven artists? Visual artists–painters, photographers, sculptors may have a distinct advantage in the way they look at the world, the details they see that others don’t. Just as musicians may be more attuned to sounds–the startled flapping of birds, unusual silence, water in the distance. And what about poets, memoirists, novelists, essayists? Personally, I consider writing a visual art. Writers see and remember details, they just represent them with words instead of pixels or paint. They are also recordists, verbal mapmakers, the keepers of stories. They… we… remind us who we are.

And what about hobbies that have nothing to do with surviving, fixing, making, or recording? What about people whose favorite things are to read books or watch movies? What about people who live in front of their computer screens? What about people who spend long years in “ivory towers” studying King Arthur? What might I have gleaned during hours have spent watching and re-watching Blade Runner or reading and re-reading Fahrenheit 451 or The Little Prince? What can Sir Gawain teach me about the apocalypse? According to a study by New York City’s The New School, reading (and I’m going to infer, watching) fiction  “improves a reader’s capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling.” Which could mean, avoiding conflict, building community, intuiting when someone nearby has less than above-board intentions.

But there’s also the benefit that having a lot of different kinds of experiences, even if they’re virtual, can give you: a flexible mind and a storehouse of remembered potential solutions. Sure, watching someone getting chased by androids, police, an encroaching medieval army, or a pack of wild animals over and over again may not make you faster, but it may make you smarter about how to get away.

What are your hobbies and how might they help you survive?

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