Sunday Snippet: Charles Demers

“There are many activities in life at which one can have a lot of fun without being any good: singing, for instance, or dancing, bowling, being the prime minister of Italy. The joy comes not from success or from executing the task well but from the incidental fun had along the way. I have always been grateful for activities such as these, because by whatever accidents of nature or nurture, I happen to have gone through life with a paucity of ability or skill. I’m not good at things.”

I’d like to believe that I’m a half decent writer, at least in the context of blogging. I’d like to believe that I’m also pretty good with numbers and that I’m not doing too shabby of a job as a dad too. Of course, I’m also very aware of my shortcomings, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the time I spend playing Street Fighter or hitting the court for some tennis. I’m not good at those things, but they bring me joy.

All too often, we assume that we must develop a certain level of skill or ability before we can enjoy an activity. When you’re just starting out with golf, you might get terribly frustrated at your inability to hit that little white ball in a reasonably straight line. After playing for some time, you might still get terribly frustrated for landing your ball in the same water trap you’ve been sinking the thing for years. And yet, you keep playing. You keep looking forward to hitting the links again. You keep smiling, because golf brings happiness… or at least some semblance of it.

The passage above comes from a collection of short stories called The Horrors. The book, by comedian Charles Demers, has been on my reading list for far too long and I’ve finally gotten around to tackling it. Each humorous essay in the book corresponds to a letter and this snippet is the opening paragraph to “G for Golf.”

Being bad at things can be disappointing. It can be depressing. It can be a real downer. But we must all recognize that we can’t all be good at everything. If a certain activity makes you happy, you don’t need to be good at it to have a good time.

Go on stage at your local karaoke bar and sing off tune. Everyone there is drunk anyway. Spend an afternoon painting a canvas because it relaxes you and provides a channel for self-expression, even if other people may scoff at your “art.”

“And it’s too bad, because if dancing, singing, bowling or being prime minister of Italy are examples of things at which you can stink but still have fun, the game of golf is an almost perfect example of the opposite.”

In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have used golf to illustrate my point. Charles Demers is right. Golf can be truly tantrum-inducing with its constant reminders of your failures and hopeless incompetence. Maybe that’s why I don’t play anymore. Maybe I should look into being the prime minister of Italy instead.

Image credit: Brent Granby (Flickr)