To be obsessed

There is nothing wrong with having an obsession. The question is whether it ends up making a difference for others. Whether it ends up changing the world.

Where would a history of the obsession begin? To be obsessed is to be under siege, obsessus comes from obsidere, to besiege. To be besieged by an idea, by a thought, by a vision.

The history of obsessions is first of all a theology of the obsession. A vision of self-transcendence based on an imitatio of the divine image. To be obsessed is to be haunted by a vision of otherness that simply won’t go away.

We think too much of mythologies and too little of ideals, either as individuals, communities or nations. Worried about origins, we underplay the agency in moving closer to ideals. Who our ancestors were matters more than the world we are called to build up.

That’s where the obsession comes in. It is the resistance to allowing the past crush the present. The first figures of obsession were those odd faces in the desert, in the forests and in the monasteries who seized upon an ideal of transformation. Most failed, but some broke through.

We are the heirs of those lunatics of the middle ages, the weirdos who are now regarded as an object of contempt. We may not recognise our shared spiritual DNA with them, but every time we grasp a life-changing idea and pursue it through thick and thin, we call them our brothers and sisters.

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