What’s Your Obsession?

What is your obsession? For Rives, a performance artist and storyteller, it is four o’clock in the morning. Why? Find out by watching his TED Talk from 2014. I found it both amusing and fascinating.

We’ve all heard of the ‘seven wonders of the world’, whether or not we could name them all. Another wonder — an eighth wonder, if you like — is not found in a geographical location, and neither is it an artefact of history. This wonder is our present age. It is our globalised world.

It is the kind of world we now inhabit in which it is possible to visit these seven wonders, and so many others besides, on a plane in a single month. It’s the kind of world in which Rives can delve into the world of ‘four o’clock in the morning’. With the interconnectedness of our day, we encounter opportunity and possibility like never before.

What is your obsession? We have so much choice and freedom. We have so much potential for exploration. It seems that the old aphorism, “The world is your oyster!” has never been so true. But with all this choice, are we happy? Do we feel all the better for all this expansive possibility?

I was surprised to discover that possessing so much choice is not necessarily good for us. To have options is not always healthy. Barry Schwartz, a psychologist, makes a compelling case for choice not making us freer or happier, but more paralysed and dissatisfied. He calls it “the paradox of choice”.

For some time now, I have realised that life is far too precious and far too short to spread oneself too thinly. The weeks and months fly by. There is not enough time in each day. I am rushing.

I need an obsession. I need a ‘thing’. Something in which I can immerse myself. Something that keeps me up at night and gets me out of bed in the morning. Something that I’ll suffer under, fight for, and rejoice in.

What is your obsession? By necessity, to obsess over one thing is to be indifferent to another. Indeed, to have an obsession is to focus upon something to the extent that many other choices of activity are overlooked and discarded. Obsession demands limitation of freedom. Obsession requires the culling of choice.

There’s a strange irony to obsession. By limiting our choices and honing our priorities, we feel more free than ever before. By finding an obsession, we feel as though we can contribute to something bigger, better and beyond ourselves. What are we willing to forsake?

If it’s true that to limit our choices and to focus on few things we become more happier and whole, then we need to ask ourselves an important question: What should I obsess about? What will be the object of my obsession? Is that to which I dedicate myself of any significance? For me, this is perhaps the greatest challenge of the Christian life – the hard call to realising its significance, it’s value, its beauty.

What is your obsession? For Rives, it’s four o’clock in the morning. What’s yours? And is it truly worth your time?