Repetition, summarizing, making an inventory, recapitulating, freezing the moment, itemizing the plans, re-living the accomplishments, going over and over the same things again and again, that’s the business of obsession. It requires little brainpower to acknowledge that the experience does nothing to alter the facts, neither the past nor the future. It is a hopeless attempt to arrest the present. And yet I persist. I liken it to a dampening of my ritual haste, a government of my unstoppable prosecution of things, a tempering of the flurry of living. While it may afford a temporary hiatus it isn’t long before I regain my traction in the circular behaviour. Certainly some contemplation is never out of place, a purposeful assessment of what has been done and what is to be done. But in the end it is an exercise fraught with the peril of trying to stop the world from spinning to get off the whirling ride.
There are even more tedious exemplifications of obsession, including unpacking and repacking containers and compartments, mechanically fluffing pillows, arranging and re-arranging things, drearily pretending to check systems and functions which likely require no repetitive oversight, turning light switches on and off and on again and off, counting cash, even cleaning surfaces and one’s hands with unremitting persistence. The rejuvenation of bathing, personal hygiene and laundry is not far behind. All told it is not such a bad preoccupation, obsession, but there is some risk of paralyzing the flow of life if the enactments are taken to extremes. It makes me wonder what people like Howard Hughes were thinking when they were reportedly so neglectful of themselves. I have heard that his fingers and hair grew long, that paradoxically he had a paranoia about eating with flatware and dishware which was not sterilized. What was it that filled his clever mind instead? Is there a correlation between genius and sanity? Or filth and insanity? Is it only the lower orders of intelligence who have the time to obsess about the comparative trivialities of personal care and tidiness? And where do we draw the line? Do we include lawn cutting? vacuuming? oven cleaning? car washing? teeth cleaning? straightening of our desktop? the general order of doing things? the rules of social graces?
It pesters me that obsession is frequently the resort of the perturbed soul. How far more preferable it is to abandon concern of trivialities and dwell instead upon the remarkable unfolding of the unpredictable. But such abandon oddly entails a precariousness and instability which I’m seldom willing to forego. Hang onto those iron bars, the support rails! Perhaps it is nothing more than self-deception. After all the consuming fixations are powerless to disguise the reality.