HobbyJoy? It sounds playful, but there is a surprising meaning to it.

What is that name symptomatic about, if anything? Let’s look at the word “hobby” first and “joy” second.

Hobby

Decades ago, my spouse told me that the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon once had said that people should live their lives as a hobby. It then sounded intriguing to me, and I wondered why anyone would say so, especially a man so dedicated to his God as the Rev. Moon was. Should religious people or people of faith not live their lives as martyrs, as existential philosopher Søren Kierkegaard suggested, or perhaps simply as ascetics or in some other esoteric kind of mode?

My hunch then was that living one’s life as if a hobby would offer a lot more joy than living a life as if being a mere sacrificial lamb or means to someone else’s end. I have not found myself to be wrong yet.

Moritz Schlick, German philosopher, physicist, and founding father of logical positivism and the Vienna Circle, bears that attitude out in his remarkable essay entitled “On the Meaning of Life.”

Quoting Wendell O’Brien in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

“Schlick was aware of Schopenhauer’s musings and was concerned to escape his dire conclusions. Schlick found his answer in (his interpretation of) Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra.’ The answer is that life can be meaningful only if it is freed from its subjugation to ends and purposes. The suggestion is radical: a life has meaning only if it does not have some end or purpose to which everything is subordinated.

Schlick argued that the meaning of life is to be found not in work but in play. Work, in the philosophical sense, is always something done not for its own sake but for the sake of something else, some end or purpose that is to be achieved.  Most often that end is the survival and perpetuation of life—that is, more work functioning only to perpetuate the life of the species. But it is absurd to take the meaning of life to lie in the continued survival of the species, or in the work required to make that survival possible.”

Wendell O’Brien in
The Meaning of Life: Early Continental and Analytic Perspectives,
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

A hobby is, in my estimation, an activity engaged in for its own glorious sake or joy and not necessarily for the furtherance of some further end or goal. This approach to life will offend the many people of faith who believe in Aristotelian teleology and that ends justify means and orient their lives exclusively around that imperative.

Joy

Schlick, in his essay, also makes the point of differentiating pleasure and “joy.”

hobbyjoy

“Yet let us beware of confusing joy, on which life’s value depends, with its surrogate, mere pleasure, that shallow enjoyment of which Schiller said that it smooths the empty face of mortals. Pleasure wearies, while joy refreshes; the latter enriches, the former puts a false sheen upon existence. Both indeed, lead us away from daily toil and distract us from care, but they do it in different ways: pleasure by diverting us, joy by pulling us together.”

In line with Schlick, French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan had a few things to say about joy, or jouissance as he framed it.

I quote from ‘Lacan – A Beginner’s Guide‘ by Lionel Bailly: “In Lacanian parlance, jouissance has the advantage of denoting not the satisfaction that arises from the attainment of a goal, but a form of enjoyment derived from the usage of something in its legitimately intended way − the pleasure that comes with the functioning of the physical or psychological apparatus associated with a drive. This distinguishes this type of enjoyment from the pleasure obtained from the satisfaction of a need, which, unlike jouissance, does reduce tension.”

Reducing the pressure or tension of a need is a pleasure, but it is a joy to be and stay alive − regardless of any subsequent needs. As Heidegger suggested: “We are thrown into this world.” Do we enjoy our appearance, or are we resenting it?

I believe that as an infant, I was given permission by my mother to enjoy being. That is, she enjoyed her life in spite of many World War II hardships, and I took notice − already as a baby. Hunger and the need for safety came only to impose their tensions on me later in life. The pleasure derived from attending to my needs became secondary to the primary joy of being alive.

There we now have it: HobbyJoy

The domain name is worth a million dollars to me.

The primary difference between ambiguous and ambivalent is that ambiguously refers to something that is unclear or has multiple possible meanings, while ambivalent refers to having mixed feelings or conflicting emotions.

Author

  • Tom

    Exploring what living a worthy life means. Despite what some say, there's no simple answer.

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