I’m a man of too many hobbies. I like backpacking, sailing, astronomy, photography, woodworking and electronics tinkering. Long ago, as I was applying to become a deacon, one of the people I met with pointed out how many of those hobbies are introverted in nature. He pointed out that people who have leadership roles often have introverted hobbies as a way to “get away” from their leadership related interpersonal issues. And to that end, he encouraged me to make sure I kept some of those hobbies despite the added burdens of becoming a deacon.
But recently I saw two similar quotes about the sailing and backpacking communities. One was an example of a sailboat that detoured hundred of miles to help a disabled boat that had lost its mast. The captain spoke of how this was not charity on his part but a “law of the sea”.
The other was a quote about the backpacking community by Jon Tullis:
“If everyone in the world took care of each other the way folks do out on the trail, and if everyone approached each day with as much hope and optimism as hikers do, the world would be a better place.”
What occurred to me is that while most of my hobbies definitely ‘scratch my itch’ for my introverted side, they also very much have a community of people who are uncommonly supportive of each other. Sailing and backpacking have explicit ethical principles of putting the needs of others above one’s desires. But if I look at the others, in particular astronomy and woodworking, they have a collaborative/cooperative thrust within their communities that is pretty noble as well.
I bring this up not to brag, but to encourage others to find similar things in their life with their interests. We live in a cynical and selfish world that too often lacks in compassion. The more time we spend interacting with that world, the more we too become jaded and cynical. We too will bend towards being selfish.
We need to find communities that counter-act this, to have relationships with people who are self-less and giving, who put the needs of others above themselves. In part, this is what our families are for. I would also hope that our interactions with members of our parish communities are similar. But I don’t think that is enough. We need to see it in others who are “outsiders” as well. So I think it would be wise for us to look at the communities we interact with and take stock… which of them bend towards being just like the rest of our cynical and selfish world and which bend towards something more noble?
And I think we should use the results of that introspection to change our priorities to emphasize those places that encourage us to live by a higher code of ethics and self-less-ness.