Endless Curiosity

April 4, 2010

Be Faithful to your Obsessions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Alec @ 7:57 am

I heard the quote “stay true to your obsessions” in an interview about the writer J.G. Ballard and was drawn to it. However, I rarely take what I hear at face value and almost always look it up. The true quote from Ballard is:

My advice to anyone in any field is to be faithful to your obsessions. Identify them and be faithful to them, let them guide you like a sleepwalker.

So let’s go with the pithy Be Faithful to your Obsessions. It’s a pretty good way to lead your life because having a purpose, having something you love to work at, is one of the keys to a good life. The downside of course is that obsession often conflicts with relationship.

Sometimes a person has to make a choice, or has to compromise. And that can be difficult and can lead to resentments and a lack of self-authenticity. Personally, I don’t know what the answer is but tend to lean towards believing in staying faithful to your obsessions. But as they say, your mileage may vary.

Another quote I heard recently is from Anthony de Mello, the wonderful Jesuit priest (alas, no longer with us). He gave many workshops but as far as I know only one was recorded, and from that recording a wonderful book, Awareness, was later created. You can find mp3’s of this workshop online, and the same site also has a pdf of the book if you’d rather download and print it yourself.

The de Mello quote was:

We live in a flash of light; evening comes and it is night forever.

Now, a Christian may not believe this, preferring the comforting solace of an everlasting life in the hereafter. But given that there’s no evidence there will be such a thing, it seems prudent to live your life as though it were a flash of light, and part of that is to live rather than exist, to follow your obsessions, or in Joseph Campbell’s words, to follow your bliss.

As I get older, and thus presumably closer to death, I increasingly like this idea. When my time is up I want to be able to accept it, knowing that I’ve had a rich, full life. I don’t want to look back and regret not having done more with my life, not having used my body and my mind reasonably fully, not having engaged with the world and put myself out there.

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