Shabbos was nice, although I didn’t make of it what I know I should. Then last night and this morning I heard Rabbi Shurin speak, and I really want to take much more out of that. This morning he elaborated on something I’ve heard him mention before, namely the difference, perhaps even chasm, between thrill-seeking fun, and contented or satisfied happiness. (What follows is my thought-process after hearing the shiur – my thoughts should not be ascribed to him.)
It really is true: no instance of simply having fun can make me happy. It certainly has its place, but the past excitements that still bring a smile to my face are those that had something much more meaningful involved. I enjoy going on fairground rides, yes, but do I actually remember those few minutes or seconds afterwards? The times I do, what I’m really remembering is the connection with the friends or family members who accompanied me, or overcoming the trepidation of a particular ride, or feeling really sick (and no, that last is not such a good memory).
Thrills certainly have their place in our lives and in that so American ideal The Pursuit of Happiness, but for what we can build from them, rather than as an end in themselves. If they are the end, rather than the means, then only the next, bigger, thrill is of any interest, and that way can lead disaster.
So that said, a little introspection seems in order: which of my hobbies or other free-time activities actually bring me contentment or satisfaction, and thus happiness, and which bring cheap thrills?
Crochet certainly brings contentment in being productive in giving others the fruits of my hands. It brings satisfaction whenever I complete a useful object, or teach someone the skill. On the other hand, stash and tool acquisition for their own sake are thrills only to be upgraded when there is a project involved (or at least strongly in mind). Which means that while I truly appreciate the beauty of these hooks, and would love to be able to support such skilled craftspeople/artists, right now what I can justify is one or maybe two hooks in each of the sizes I use. I’ll say yes to spending a bit on extra comfortable hooks in the sizes I use regularly, or want to make a large project in. I’ll buy extra (yes, cheaper, but perfectly serviceable) hooks to give away to learners. However, I won’t build up a hook collection for its own sake. (Certainly not unless and until I have the space to display and thus really enjoy it!)
Don’t get me wrong – I’m decrying MY OWN tendency to collect things that don’t have inherent value to me, and trying to challenge that. I own one or two pieces of art (nothing monetarily valuable) and wouldn’t mind acquiring one or two more, but these must be items that will give me pleasure, make me smile, maybe even make me think, well into the future.
(This bowl always makes me smile, and that does help me to be happy.) (Sorry, I’ll try to take another pic with better focus to replace this with later.)
Reading is actually a harder issue to address, because much of it does have work or learning value. I’m hardly going to say many novels don’t have value either, to provoke thought, to share with and connect to others, to provide an easy learning experience or even just as a quick way to see a different perspective on something. The fact remains that while I do get much of that from most of what I read, some of it also involves images and thoughts, thrills that aren’t currently … helpful … in my life. If nothing else, I’d like to rebalance how much of that there is.
Again, this is (public) introspection. I amn’t passing judgement on other people. That isn’t my way.