A Hobby and a Habit

Alfred North Whitehead

If you detect a tongue-in-cheek tone to the title of this blog, you are perceptive. Hobbies and habits need not conflict. It’s not an either-or matter. Hobbyists cultivate many habits related to their passion.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Habits are not bad in themselves. Good habits are good, and bad habits are bad. As philosopher Gilbert Ryle put it, Some tautologies need repeating.

Forming habits — creating routines — is how we economize on time and effort, both of which are scarce since we are mortal.

The philosopher and mathematician Alfred North Whitehead, a collaborator with renown pipe smoker and philosopher Bertrand Russell, said

It is a profoundly erroneous truism that we should cultivate the habit of thinking of what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.

We pipe smokers cultivate many habits, and I’m not just talking about nicotine. (I prefer the old-fashioned word habit to the pernicious medicalized term addiction.) We have habits about packing our pipes, tamping, lighting, cleaning, rotating, perhaps dedicating, and other aspects of pipe smoking. If we had to give each of the various details our close attention each time, we’d have less time and energy to attend to new things. What a loss that would be!

So glory in the hobby! Glory in the habit!