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The Origin of Hobbies and Pastimes: An Essay

Chris practices free writing which often produces humorous or introspective results with practical applications to living life more fully.

When we hunt, fish, quilt, weave, hike, boat and practice other forms of recreation, how do these mimic survival behavior of our prehistoric ancestors? What aspect of their lives am I re-creating?

Hiking into the deep canyons of the Bitterroot Mountain Range in Montana has been an exciting time in my life.  My stay here in the Treasure State is coming to an end, but I will always remember the days wandering, fishing and being truly at peace.

Hiking into the deep canyons of the Bitterroot Mountain Range in Montana has been an exciting time in my life. My stay here in the Treasure State is coming to an end, but I will always remember the days wandering, fishing and being truly at peace.

I hefted my backpack onto one shoulder and fished around for the other strap until I had the heavy bag hanging on my back. I buckled the waist belt which placed most of the weight on my hips, and I was ready to go.

The trail I had chosen for this trek was Bass Creek Canyon between the Bitterroot river and the eastern side of the Bitterroot Mountains. I would hike the eight miles and then set up camp on the shore of Bass Lake. From what I’d learned, I was in for a strenuous, uphill journey.

Four hours later I collapsed on the solid stone of a small peninsula which jutted out into Bass Lake. The hike had completely exhausted me so that I could do nothing more than lie on the ground with my head propped up against my backpack.

I fell asleep in spite of jagged rocks stabbing into my back and woke half an hour later looking up into a vast, blue, Montana sky. I slowly sat up and took in the scenery. Mountain peaks towered over me on three sides with pockets of snow still remaining even this far into summer. The lake was bluer even than the sky, reflecting the few clouds that were drifting lazily eastward.

A trout broke the surface sending ripples outward until they were swallowed up by the still water. No sound could be heard save the splash of the one fish and the faint whisper of a light breeze filtering through pines on steep slopes.

The trout had my attention. Tired as I was, I pulled my six piece Redington fly rod from its pocket on the side of my pack. Moments later I was easing a thirteen inch cutthroat to the rock ledge on which I was standing.

Hunting morel mushrooms is a skill passed on to me by my father and one which I have passed on to my sons.  It is a vestige of the hunting and gathering which our ancient ancestors practiced.

Hunting morel mushrooms is a skill passed on to me by my father and one which I have passed on to my sons. It is a vestige of the hunting and gathering which our ancient ancestors practiced.

Backpacking and fly fishing are two of my passions. I also enjoy kayaking and canoeing on rivers and lakes. Most of us have activities which we have come to love and enjoy. We are willing to invest time, energy and money into them because of the satisfaction they bring.

Some crave physical challenges. Others enjoy creating something with their hands. Some relish the challenge of the hunt while still others find great satisfaction in growing edible plants. There are bee keepers and those who raise one or two cows, pigs or sheep. Mushroom hunters scour wooded hillsides in search of various kinds of fungi. Why do these activities have such a grasp on us?

Ancient man, as is true with all wild animals, spent every waking moment in the pursuit of food. No matter what your opinion is concerning the origin of man, most of us agree that our ancestors spent a good deal of time and energy engaged in activities that would keep them alive. We call them hunters and gatherers, but they were more than that.These ancient people also crafted tools and other things useful for sustaining their lives. Everything was related to survival and food.

We have invented short cuts to the food supply. We simply go to the grocery store or farm market. The result is that we have a great deal of time on our hands that our ancestors did not have. What do we do with at least a portion of these salvaged minutes? We adopt hobbies.

I find it fascinating that our hobbies today are similar to the life sustaining activities of our ancestors. Some are quite obvious, such as hunting and fishing. Gathering mushrooms and other edible, wild plants also is plain to see. Quilting, crafts and woodworking mimic the creative acts of our relatives who lived before the first civilizations were built.

It seems to me that these activities we call hobbies, pastimes, sports or recreation are actually expressions of our raw humanness. They are vestigial survival behaviors. When we participate in many, if not most, of the common recreational activities of our day, it is a glimpse at how our ancestors spent every moment of their lives.

There is one hobby that is a little more difficult to correlate with this concept. A lot of people, especially youth, are wrapped up in playing video games. Is it possible that the content of these games matches up with how ancient people lived? Wars and battles dominate the world of video games just as they have dominated human history as far back as can be seen in writings and archeology. People who pass the day and night with a video controller in their hands are participating digitally in a very ancient, life and death activity. I suppose in this regard, even paintball wars are an expression of this same idea.

One of my hobbies which I combine with another of my hobbies......fly fishing and backpacking.

One of my hobbies which I combine with another of my hobbies......fly fishing and backpacking.

My hike out into the Bitterroot wilderness was for the pleasure of the hike and the enjoyment of peaceful surroundings...and the fish. But it was also a not-quite-dormant, primal behavior that at one time lead a man to cross rugged terrain in order to catch fish from a trustworthy lake and return with food for his family.

When we hunt, fish, quilt, weave, hike, boat and participate in many other forms of modern recreation, we might ask ourselves this question: How does this activity mimic the survival behavior of those men and women who lived long ago? What aspect of their lives am I re-creating?

We seem to have lost sight of the fact that these pastimes are really survival skills which are hard wired into humanity. As we each practice our hobby of choice, let’s take a moment to consider how this may be more than simple recreation. It is a link to ancestors who lived so long ago that no genealogical research will ever find them. But there you are, fishing as he fished, knitting just as she fashioned rough clothing from skins, harvesting your garden just as she harvested. You paddle your kayak or canoe down a river, while long ago another paddled as a means of travel and trade.

We consider ourselves to be modern, sophisticated, educated human beings, yet we are not altogether different from our prehistoric ancestors. This thinking might add a new dimension to our favorite pastimes so that they seem more real, more purposeful, more vital.

Comments

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on April 02, 2015:

Aneegma, everything in my backpack is incredibly small and lightweight, so there possibly would be room for you. Hop on in because at the end of May, I'm headed to southern Oregon for six months. There should be some awesome hiking places there. Thanks for reading this hub. It's good to see you today.

Jasmine S from Pennsylvania on April 02, 2015:

Well look at you looking all handsome and yummy in that photo! I must take a trip with you someday. Brilliant hub, maybe I'll stuff myself in your backpack and you can carry me around haha. Nicely done. Voted up.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 31, 2015:

Lady Guinevere, Hi, thanks for reading this hub. That was a highlight of my six months in western Montana. I have six more hubs about my time there. Hiking into those canyons was unlike anything I have done before. I am hoping to get back out there for work again in the very near future. Thanks for stopping by.

Debra Allen from West By God on March 31, 2015:

That must have been a very interesting thing. Perhaps more hubs on that adventure?

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 31, 2015:

jonnycomelately, Thank you so much for the very kind comments about my hub on recreation. It is great to have you visit here today. I see you around in the hubs quite a bit, but our paths haven't crossed in a while. Thanks for stopping.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 31, 2015:

ps, Thanks for stopping in and reading my article. Hiking is one of our recreational activities I find most interesting in this regard. They had no other option but to walk wherever they went. We have to make a concerted effort to do any walking at all it seems. Hiking is definitely at the top of my list as fun things to do.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 31, 2015:

Lady Guinevere, I'm glad you enjoyed my hub. You're very right about the tribal groups today. I spent three months in New Guinea after college. Our recreational activities mimic their daily lives very closely. Good point.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on March 31, 2015:

Audrey, Thank you for reading my article on recreation. I suppose if my ancestors were horse thieves this might not be such an interesting topic. Thanks for stopping by.

jonnycomelately on March 31, 2015:

Beautifully written, Chris, perfect grammar and punctuation which makes it such an enjoyable read. Wonderful word pictures besides the photos, and you made me feel I was there with you.

Voted up!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on March 31, 2015:

Well said, Cam. Staying in tune with whatever it is that connects us to our roots is a good thing!!! When I lived in South Dakota we hiked and hiked and hiked..Loved it.

Love this hub.

Angels are on the way to you this morning

Voted up++++ and shared ps

Debra Allen from West By God on March 31, 2015:

It isn't just our ancestors as many tribe in remote areas still do this on a daily basis. It's how they survive. I love watching National Geographic and even have a subscription to their magazine that comes out every other month. Great hub!

Audrey Howitt from California on March 31, 2015:

Yup and Yup! We are not so very different from our ancestors really!

Linda Bryen from United Kingdom on February 16, 2015:

You are right, we might consider hobbies as recreations or just past times for us but our ancestors do these hobbies to survive and have something to eat like fishing. I remember when I was young, my grandma used to take me with her in the evenings to the river to find and catch frogs to roast and eat. It was fun catching frogs because they jump as soon as you approach them.

christinemariezzz on November 19, 2014:

Chris,

(The top photo reminded me a bit of Middle Fork) ....

"...survival skills hard wired to our humanity..." I like that! and your last 41 words in this writing. These ramblings read through and through, such that I believe your primal urge to write is your recreation too!

One strong critique, if I may ramble a bit here too: "Stop serving two fish on the rocks with Hubbers if you can't share." (LOL)- man, where's the butter and lemon! Such a clear shot.

-christinemarie

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 21, 2013:

Allun, thanks for reading and for leaving some very thought provoking comments.

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on October 21, 2013:

Chris; I totally agree about the impact of our ancient past on our present lives. It shouldn't be too much of a surprise - we spent many tens of thousands of years in the hunter/gatherer lifestyle, and only a few hundred in anything approaching modern domesticity.

I am sure there is within us some innate bond with nature and the behaviour patterns which have helped us survive over so many generations and centuries - too often today we try to suppress that bond, but it is never far below the surface and I am sure you are right that it often manifests itself in the form of hobbies and past times. Well thought out essay on one aspect of human psychology. Alun.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on September 27, 2013:

Ann, thanks for reading my hub. Hobbies seem so random, and I suppose we take them too lightly. I enjoyed thinking through this commonplace part of our lives and seeing a little deeper. I wanted to read one of your hubs after you commented and ended up reading the story you wrote for Billybuc's contest. I entered it too. I remember reading your story at the time and even found my comment. It was nice to have you visit my hubs. ds

Ann Carr from SW England on September 27, 2013:

Certainly does add a new dimension to our leisure activities. A great description of the big outdoors, along with your philosophies on how we've adapted since our ancestors. I wonder what our writing activity tells us? Presumably the necessity for communication which has been ever-present and is everlasting, our need to relate to others and our need for companionship. Great hub with so much content and a great read.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on September 22, 2013:

Deb, It is interesting to look at our hobbies in this way. I was thinking of your hobby of avian photography in this light. Anyone in history, especially ancient history, whose survival was based on understanding and ultimately hunting and killing wild animals/birds, had to be careful observers of these animals. Of course your goal is not to kill and eat the birds you photograph, but you are practicing an ancient skill/art of wildlife observation.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on September 22, 2013:

Michael, you are right. Children working with their parents can develop good skills when it comes to how to spend free time. Hobbies are what spices up life and makes it much more interesting. Thanks for the thoughts.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on September 20, 2013:

This was so well done, Chris. Thanks for bringing up what many of our hobbies really mean to possible flashbacks into the past.

Michael-Milec on September 20, 2013:

Hi Chris. Beautifully woven pastime and practical living . How important role play the parents , lovingly investing time spending with their children " working " together!

Much to learn,know and implement exposed in this hub will definitely leave the world better place for generations to come.

Voted up,awesome nd interesting .

Shalom, my frend.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on September 18, 2013:

Thanks Bill, we should work in a fly fishing/backpacking trip sometime. I bet you have some great country for it there.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 18, 2013:

Great points, Cam! Give me a backpack and a fly rod and I'm one happy man....loved this hub.

bill