Entertainment as a Cultivatable Habit


Despite what I wrote last time, inspiration can still strike. However, it’s never the flash of lightning the comes out of nowhere. Rather, it’s something that’s lying dormant within you, cultivated and molded through a thousand different experiences. It could be a date you went on, a movie you saw, a book you read, a phenomenal view, something you listened to or heard – if we’re honest, almost anything can be used as a base for inspiration. It’s very non-discriminating vis-à-vis input and can produce surprising output. Sort of like a black box.

It’s a bit odd to write about entertainment as a habit that should be carefully cultivated. There’s already so much that requires careful attention, why not let this part of your life be more free-flowing? That, without any further argument, is good enough. Life is hard and there’s already more than enough work for people to do; it’s fine to let this flow as you’d like. In my own experience, though, I’ve found that I need to schedule downtime. Down to the very thing I’m going to be watching or reading or listening to. This is because of the ridiculous amount of things to consume. I’ve lost enough hours just scrolling through Netflix that I just decided to cancel it. Rather, I’ve become a bit more circumspect of what I consume. I’m subscribed to Disney+ and The Criterion Channel, though most of my visual consumption is still through Blu-Rays. The tactility of the object – the Blu-Ray in this case, and physical books in another – help me focus on what I’m enjoying. Plus, there’s a reduced risk of me hopping into something else. The same applies to YouTube, which I mostly eschew. That rabbit hole is far too long, and I prefer to not risk getting sucked in.

Invariably, this means I miss out on a lot that others enjoy. There is, to some extent, FOMO – the fear of missing out. I’ve no satisfying way to deal with this. Mostly, I chalk it up to “Oh well” and leave it at that. Multiple lifetimes wouldn’t be enough to catch up with all the content that’s out there, so by design, one must be more particular in what they reach for.

This has its own risk: How do I make sure I don’t pigeonhole myself into a particular way of thinking? How do I make sure I don’t just keep listening or watch or reading the same things again and again? I try to overcome this by just being mindful and careful of what I purchase, and which edition of it i.e. if presented with the choice of a critical edition of a book or a regular version with just the text, I prefer the former. It introduces me to different viewpoints of that book (and typically at the end, so I still have the opportunity to come to my own conclusions before entertaining others). I also try to consume things I’m not used to. I didn’t watch much Japanese, Italian, Chinese, Russian, or French cinema until I came across the Criterion Collection (or classic American cinema, at that). It was difficult at first – mostly due to the style of filmmaking as opposed to the language; I don’t mind subtitles. But eventually, I eased into it a bit.

All of this stems from small changes to my entertainment habits, most of them reasoned. I wasn’t happy with how things were, and so I made a concerted habit to change them. I try to go through a book, a movie, and an album per week. That’s led me to enjoy my media much more than when I used to just randomly pick something up and go through it. I go so far as to add it to my calendar. It’s not for everyone, but I’ve found it’s worked wonders for me.

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