Why Do We Do What We Do?


Why do we keep geckos? Paint? Write lyrics? Or poetry? Why do we have this compunction to have hobbies?  The answer is not that simple, but one writer, Thomas Moore, has given me some insights I’d like to share with you.  If you don’t want to take this philosophical journey, and this IS a philosophical journey, abort this mission now.

I consider myself a spiritual man.  I’m attuned to life around me, and I am a nurturer.  While in the army I was a counselor.  I nurtured soldiers. I spent thirty years nurturing community college students as a teacher and taught U.S. Army instructors how to accomplish the same goal.  I’d bet that you, too, are a nurturer.  Most folks who cultivate living creatures are.  That’s one of the main reasons we maintain gecko collections.  We have this innate need to care deeply for something.


Another, more important, reason is that we simply enjoy keeping geckos. It gives us great joy to view their beauty and to care for them daily. It also gives some of us pleasure to do the mundane chores associated with the culture of one, or one-hundred, geckos.  We are like children as we peer into the incubator to check on that pet project.  Did the Super Hypo Jungle Tangerine RAPTOR Enigma hatch yet? That doesn’t mean that we don’t get tired of the chores–just that somehow we get rejuvenated (by peering into that incubator, maybe) and look forward to another day of these very same chores.

The minute the chores become a burden, however, most people abandon the hobby quickly and seek other ways to spend their idle time. Yes, idle time scares a few people. WHAT can I do? I’m bored! I don’t want to be alone! Hmmmm, sound familiar? That’s another reason we humans have hobbies. I offer as ample evidence the number of folks who jump into gecko breeding and then abandon the endeavor just as quickly. They can’t stand the chores. They aren’t motivated enough by the rewards. Of course, some think they will make oodles of money.  Doesn’t happen and they retreat to some other reptile breeding attempt―ah, yes, breeding Ball pythons mayhaps.

We frequent forums to communicate with other folks who have a passion for geckos. Why? Forums offer, in the words of William Deresiewicz, “a culture of connectivity.”  He opines that we need Twitter and Facebook because their use validates us as individuals. “This is how we become real to ourselves―by being seen by others.”   And so we gecko folks meet on forums to discuss and debate issues related to our gecko hobby. The forums also provide a venue for occasional rants or raves.  Deresiewicz also provides an important basis for our deep, human need for validity on forums or Facebook or Twitter. We become real in a world that tends to alienate those with a fondness for reptiles.  Cultivating geckos provides a way to become validated in a world that often leaves us feeling that we are invalid. Then he makes a startling revelation:

So we live exclusively in relation to others, and what disappears from our lives is solitude. Technology is taking away our privacy and our concentration, but it is also taking away our ability to be alone.


Ah, yes, our hobbies allow us to escape solitude.  We are human after all, and social creatures of the first order.  And we are scared of being alone! So keeping geckos allows us access to a forum community, or a technological community, that validates our existence beyond what social media provides. We have a place where we belong. Ask yourself this, how many times have you LEFT a forum when you felt like you did NOT belong? Or where you were ignored?  Where you or your ideas did NOT matter? I thought so.  Now you understand.
OK, time to get to the meat of this discourse. About time, indeed. Yes, we are nurturers. We enjoy the geckos (and even the chores).  We need to keep busy.  We hate solitude―alone-ness. We love the “fame” and the connectedness we feel on social media or forums. I’m sure there are other reasons as well, but Thomas Moore, the modern man―not the older guy from Henry the VIII’s era, has written a book that intimates an even more enlightened view of why we have hobbies. In The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life Moore makes one point clear:

All lessons in enchantment begin with nature: with animals that exhibit “pure soul,” as Robert Sardello once remarked; with day and night, season and tide–natural rhythms; with our own instincts and sensations, our own nature, part of and reflective of the natural world around us. It’s easy to speak philosophically and abstractly about being part of nature, but the important thing is to live that realization, to make local nature a concrete element in daily life.


Of course, he’s speaking of the larger aspect of nature.  The rising sun, setting sun, clouds, storms, trees, flowers, gardens, grand landscapes, etc., but I’ll offer this.  He’s also talking about that gecko project in one of your trays or aquariums. That happens to be our most intimate form of “local nature.” Geckos offer us a way to become re-enchanted with life. That seems to translate to being content with ourselves and often makes us a better friend and companion to those around us: our immediate family, our local friends, our colleagues at work, and our forum buddies. One thing is certain. We DO live in a world that desperately needs re-enchantment. Nurturing geckos helps in that re-enchantment.

One final thought. We eat food daily to feed our physical bodies, we may attend religious institutions to take care of our spiritual needs, and we maintain geckos, and any other hobbies or passions we cultivate, because they provide a means for feeding our souls on a daily basis. Without the nurturing of our souls, we fail to thrive. Our lives are really quite empty. That’s why we do what we do.

Note 1: Thomas Moore was a monk in a Catholic religious order for twelve years. His degrees are in theology, musicology, and philosophy. He’s currently a respected psychotherapist, lecturer, and author of The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, Care of the Soul, The Planets Within, The Soul’s Religion, and other titles.

Note 2:  I want to thank Sister Kathryn Frances of Adirondack Geckos whose September 2010 Gecko Time article, The Spiritual Side of Keeping Geckos, served as the impetus for this article. Kathy was my muse.

What do you think?

Written by Shannon Hiatt

Shannon is a 60-something hobbyist who has cultivated reptiles since age ten. Like many reptile breeders, Shannon spent his wasted youth chasing all that slithered, croaked, or skittered across the ground. That continued into his wasted twenties and thirties as well, as he “herped” around the US, Thailand, and South Korea. After a four-year hiatus from keeping Colubrids, following a major life-changing event, he’s back breeding Leopard geckos, along with a pair of AFTs, in order to feed his soul on a daily basis.


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  1. What a wonderful article! I enjoyed every word written. You have tapped into my feelings and thoughts beautifully.
    And I cant say I have ever been someones muse before, and I like it! Thank you.


  2. Shannon, thanks so much for encompassing what we feel that is often so hard to describe to our friends and family who question what we do. This was an amazing article that I am proud to have featured on Gecko Time.

  3. Thanks all. As a teacher, I often watched my students wrestle with the topics I provided for them. But . . . then I watched as they “discovered” what it was they wanted to say. I didn’t discover exactly what I wanted to say about the topic until I wrote about it. Now it belongs to me and to you.

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