THE OCCASIONAL DESIRABILITY OF OBSCURITY

It is enjoyable every so often to reclaim a word from the undesirables list.

I choose ‘obscure’ this week.

Who wants to be obscure?

Success is, currently, inextricably linked in our world with fame/ celebrity/ conspicuous achievement/ energy / drive / activity / performance (how oddly exhausting this list becomes).

Obscure means dark, the absence of light, yet has sidled into a value –laden area of meaning that connotes unworthiness, even failure.

There’s something strange that goes on around being seen to be active (in the light) v not being seen.

It is Winter here in the northern hemisphere. It is dark.

Nature is resting.

Why don’t we?

Why don’t we equate darkness with pausing, waiting, turning in a little, as we invisibly garner the strength and energy for …Spring?

Why not reclaim this time of less light as a natural counter-weight to the full force of light and action that will unfold later in the year?

I raise this because a real theme of self–blame for non-conspicuous achievement as 2018 begins has appeared in many team and coaching sessions; and it is misery inducing.

This ‘being seen to be brilliant’ is such a powerful force, and so universally embraced.

It hasn’t always been the case.

George Elliot noted

The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistorical acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs’.

Mark Twain suggested

Obscurity and competence: that is the life worth living’.

The much- missed Terry Pratchett, who looked at everything from a different point of view, used to say

People don’t alter history any more than birds alter the sky, they just make brief patterns in it’,

which may help us regain some perspective. And even enjoy some obscurity.

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