‘Relevant complexity’ is my theory of everything: satisfaction and joy arise from the pursuit of complex, worthwhile and comparatively challenging pursuits.
Art history, particle physics, the raising of children, the preparation and enjoyment of good food etc etc – all relevantly complex.
You need to learn, improve, occasionally triumph – and sometimes feel you actually know almost nothing – to achieve the satisfaction of mastering relevant complexity with a good degree of skill.
Then there are hobbies. Same effect Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘flow’ – as one become adept or expert but some risks: becoming a bore or solitary obsessive. I have achieved ‘flow’ by hoovering well, even cleaning a fridge. But these are not monuments to my life’s work or relevantly complex pursuits I’d want defining who I am.
What’s in? An eclectic and erratic list: cooking, relevant; gardening, chore. Writing, relevant; drawing embarrassment. Cleaning the fish tank, chore (and only tolerable if I’m left to do it properly) odd jobs, drilling and hanging things source of great irritation and angst. Why?
Because it’s hard to get odd jobs right. Our walls are rubbish, you only ever do a thing once – so you make maximum mistakes, never get the chance to practice what you’ve learned. And the smallest thing can take disproportionate time for a disappointing effect; which then stares down at you in reproach for years. Aaargh. Irrelevant complexity.
My latest botched odd job stares down at me here:
In awkward shapes
Lots of screws
And hacksaw blades
Variety of fixings
Wobbling and fiddling
Scarcely blocking the sky
But every cloud has a silver lining. After three separate wasted days on and off up ladders, with hacksaws, at the DIY shop, I definitively gave up in a huff on our lounge curtains.
Then a miracle intervened. My beloved took to the ladders, took up the drill and made it all hang together. Perhaps she found it satisfying enough that she might become Oddjob now… Fingers crossed.