Astronomy | Culture | Lifestyle | Stargazing

A Shelf Full of Worthy Pursuits

“We are our choices.”  – Jean-Paul Sartre

I found myself in a store that specializes in astronomy-related equipment like higher end telescopes and the like. I was there to upgrade my binoculars, which left a lot to be desired when hunting down that elusive Comet NEOWISE. While there he showed me a stunningly gorgeous Questar Standard 3.5 telescope that would only set me back $5000 dollars.  It was breathtaking in its detail, and I could imagine myself having it set up on the deck gazing in wonder at the universe with a glass of scotch in my hand conversing astronomy tidbits with adoring family and friends.  Enticing?  No doubt.  But I stuck with the binoculars and kept my savings account and marriage intact.  I also took his brochure on the local astronomy club and tucked that away safely on a shelf with my other worthy pursuits.  Life is about the choices we make, and Lord knows there’s an abundance of choices we can make in this country.

“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need”
– The Rolling Stones, You Can’t Always Get What You Want

You may recall a recent post about getting back into scuba diving.  I had almost the exact interaction with the dive shop I visited as the one I had at the astronomy shop, complete with cutting edge dive gear, underwater photography equipment, and that special pricing that comes when you’re in a pandemic and concessions need to be made to keep business flowing.  I’ve shelved that indefinitely as I tackle other projects, and added the brochure about scuba certification to the shelf to revisit another day. Such is the way with worthy pursuits: you can’t have it all. But you just might find you get what you need.

“Books are like imprisoned souls till someone takes them down from a shelf and frees them.” – Samuel Butler

Those shelves that imprisoned books also hold those brochures with unfulfilled dreams of adventure travel, cooking with fire, sailing around the world, hiking the Appalachian Trail, gardening, sea kayaking and other pursuits waiting to break free, or dare I say, mastered.  Life is chock full of worthy pursuits, and full of experts to guide you down the path.  But life isn’t full of enough time to master every pursuit that strikes a fancy, and so we must choose what to live with and what to live without.  Something has to give, and the shelf is stacked with victims of the time, money and focus equation not working in their favor.  I’m very interested in astronomy, but I’m not quite there yet for jumping into the deep end on astronomy club activities and diverting $5K towards a telescope…  No, not just yet.  But hey, if we’re both still around in ten years let’s get reacquainted.

In the casual pursuit of Comet NEOWISE, the binoculars made all the difference.  Even with wispy clouds threatening to mask the view, I was able to see the comet clearly with the new binoculars.  And here’s the reason I chose those binoculars (besides the price tag relative to the telescope of my dreams): the binoculars are small enough to fit into a backpack or a sailing bag or brought outside with a cup of coffee for backyard bird-watching.  And thus combining multiple worthy pursuits with one modest purchase.  Is that the answer when choosing the worthiest of pursuits – what offers the best bang for the buck?  Not necessarily, but surely it helps justify the initial financial step into the new-to-you.

I may not own the title of the most interesting man in the world, but who has time to do everything anyway?  Follow your passions where they might lead you, but do it responsibly.  The world has enough attention deficit disorder with Twitter and YouTube and sound bite news.  Keep trying new things and you never know what rises to the top of the priority list.  I’m a jack-of-all-trades, who invests time to eventually master some. Or not master some but enjoy the ride anyway. I’ve seen friends drift further and further into pursuits as diverse as sailing and hiking and photography, and I recognize and admire the passion of pursuit and growing expertise within them.  Everything has its time, and some pursuits will be there when the time is right… or perhaps not at all.   There’s joy in focusing on the singular pursuit of something, and happily living with the sampler pack with other, otherwise worthy pursuits.   There’s freedom in learning to say no, not now.

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