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Saturday, 22 March 2014

It's just good fun (most of the time)

We outdoories are often asked, “why”?  Strangely, those questioners rarely pester model-makers or stamp collectors, or even writers.  This seems to imply a belief that there is something fascinatingly philosophical and exclusive yet to be discovered about enjoyment from walking. The answer of course is to define enjoyment, and there has been endless unsuccessful  academic stuff about that, so why try shift the responsibility onto us?

Enjoyment can be achieved from a pleasant surprise. Perhaps spotting the first snowdrop, or something more spectacular as you round the bend on a newly discovered path.

Geocaching illustrates my point. Many caches are unimaginatively hidden in a plastic box under a pile of stones newly scratched from repeated movement and an explicit clue is given in addition to the GPS coordinate, but others are more inventive and the clue can be cryptic. Recently a mock bird box up a tree needed me to find an object to gain height to initiate the climb, and then the box turned out to have a trick opening mechanism. Others have included a waterproof container under stones in a roadside water trough, and a Thermos flask suspended fifteen feet down a grike on a limestone pavement by chain attached to an innocent looking branch of ash, and another waterproof container swimming in a stream attached to the bank with barely visible nylon line. 

Most people enjoy solving a puzzle whether it be a crossword or a suduko, but there is a fine line between annoyance and pleasure on discovering the answer defined by one’s reaction on its solving. In adverse cases a desire arises to pelt the perpetrator with rotten vegetables for unfairness or excessive obscurity.

Enjoyment is apparent when a grin or even a good laugh arises at the ingenuity.


From my Welsh walk in 2011

"Rounding a bend on a newly discovered path..."
I could see something blocking the way in the far distance...

This inert ship completely blocked the way of the path. If you want to know more go to:


AlanR said...

I've heard said "if you need to ask the question you will never understand the answer". I think it fits here.

mike M said...

I'll save my wondering for the jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts.

Sir Hugh said...

AlanR - We are all different. I can't understand "why" anybody would want to spend a whole day shopping in The Trafford Centre, but on the other hand I am not curious to know "why", and have no desire to pester them with questions searching for a profound reason.


Mike M - No! It's not the activity that I am questioning - the task is to pursue the definition of enjoyment.

Roderick Robinson said...

I speak as a stamp collector, slighted by your shallow assumption. I am often asked why? The answer is obvious.

Soon letters with stamps will be but a memory. Replaced by electronic gadgetry, yes, but that's not all. The effort of assembling a fountain pen, paper, envelope, address book and - yes - a stamp is only worthwhile if you have something to say. Those people who are reduced to LOL don't envisage "love" or "laughs" (whichever of the two is appropriate - as if it mattered) because they have divorced themselves from words and their meaning. They are using a symbol, they are not expressing anything. Over the centuries symbols will replace the rest of the words in their pitifully inadequate sentences, and eventually these primitive creatures will be reduced to drawing bison on their living room walls.

I will be long gone but perhaps my stamp collection will survive. A memorial to the times when language was not only subtler and more comprehensive, but when people had a use for it. It is my hope that someone will open one of my albums and marvel that even people in, say, the Leeward Isles once needed stamps. That when they found it necessary to write down "love" or laughs" they had it in mind to allude to two of the greatest experiences a human being is capable of.

The fact that I can't afford an I-phone is neither here nor there/

Sir Hugh said...

RR - Touché.

One of the things that defines us as humans is that we are conscious that certain things matter.

My post wandered a bit from questioning why "why" to pondering on the definition of enjoyment.

mike M said...

Enjoyment is derived from the presence or absence of certain chemicals in the brain. The endocrine system provides these chemicals per signals from the senses. Enjoyment is the preferred state for most, but through the fantastic complexity of experience (and genetic heritage) individuals have come to prefer wildly disparate activities. RR prefers that emotional terms never be pared to acronyms, but aspires to trim text passages to the brink of riddle. Others are stimulated by novelty and speed in communication, at the expense of savoring each word as a fully formed newborn. (I mostly subscribe to the Roderick Robinson school on this matter, btw). I suspect jigsaw puzzle doers are trying to limit the squirt of arousal hormones, to relax, perhaps in retreat from the cacophony of everyday matters. Walking? Your glands tell your brain it is good, your brain passes along the message.

Sir Hugh said...

Mike M - thanks for that. I find a great disappointment when such things are explained by chemistry. " the brink of riddle" - brilliant!

afootinthehills said...

Hello Conrad. Your sense of 'disappointment' (or enjoyment for that matter) cannot, however, be adequately communicated by a description of the neurochemical processes involved or regions of the brain activated etc. It is a reductivist approach.

To the questioner who asks 'why do you enjoy such and such an activity' such an ‘explanation’ is quite inadequate – certainly incomplete - and conveys absolutely no information about how you feel during the experience or the richness of that experience.

Note: I would have added IMHO but fear of RR's response dissuaded me!

afootinthehills said...

Sorry, 'reductionist'

mike M said...

afoot: Sir Hugh has insisted on the definition of enjoyment, not the whys and hows of enjoying a particular activity. My blather about chemicals is more an elaboration on than a reduction of the definition. Merriam-Webster offers this: "A feeling of pleasure caused by doing or experiencing something you like."

afootinthehills said...

Mike - fair point

Sir Hugh said...

Mike M and Afoot - Afoot has emailed me to say some of his comments have not appeared on my blog, so unfortunately it seems we may have missed some of his contribution.
In the end I have to condone that human behaviour is defined scientifically, and I can more accept that in areas of fright and fear and courage which easily relate to the Darwinian theories of propogation of species, but I do not find it so easy to reconcile it with emotions like enjoyment, and to some extent mutual attraction, even though they can still be explained in neuro-chemical terms.

The same chemicals are at work whether we gain enjoyment from eating cream cakes or from sadism, and it is that difference in the manifestation that puzzles me.

At heart I know that science will explain all, but there is still a part of me that is romantic, and perhaps would prefer these questions to remain a mystery where the wonder of the unknown may be FOR ME more attractive than the beautiful formula is to the true scientist.

mike M said...

The sense of taste is combined with the pleasure of cream cakes...pain is involved with the pleasure of s-m...I think the difference lies in these combinations. I don't think science will ever solve all, and, fancy this; I believe that ignoring the science can lead to enjoyment.