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fun and competence

I just got back from an early morning run. I tend not to do life that way -- treating running as fun (which it is not) and writing as work (which it is -- sort of) and therefore putting off the "fun" of running until I've finished the day's "work" of writing. What happens is that the day's work stretches out (sometimes because I am actually having fun at it -- more often because it just takes longer than I figured) and I don't get to the run. And since I am lying to myself about how much fun running is, I don't mind. And another day goes by without running. And I find myself wheezing as I climb the stairs.

So today I started with the run. I've read enough articles about how getting the blood flowing through the brain and body early makes for a productive day. So far, so pretty good. My heart rate has slowed, and I've written half a blog.

All this is by way of intro to today's topic: can you love something you can't do well? I'm not saying you have to play basketball well to enjoy it on TV. Or play an instrument to enjoy a concert. But the things you do -- you tend to do because you are good at them. And the better you get, the more you do them. Which is how you end up being Lang Lang or LeBron James. I, for instance, did not do math in university. I did English. And I guess I still am doing English. I may not be good at it, but I am better at it than I am at math.

It's true in my leisure activities as well. Squash is my favorite athletic game. Non-coincidentally, it is the game I am best at -- I mean, I suck, but I suck even worse at tennis or golf, or slow pitch (I played lob ball for the first time in my life last weekend, and almost killed myself).

But take pool, say. (That's where this whole idea started.) I was thinking about the last time I played pool. It was a few months ago now and, you know, I had just the best time. I'd love to play again, and will, and I bet I enjoy myself. But I am a terrible player. I enjoy figuring out the angles and trajectories; I see the shot in my mind, and then manage to send the white ball in the wrong direction. But that doesn't stop me from looking forward to my next shot.

Maybe one of these days I can work out why I play a game I like so much so infrequently. Probably has something to do with work, or kids. Maybe I need a willing partner. But that'll take us to a whole new post.


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