Thursday, December 01, 2005

"Obsessions are never good for us"

I'm taking a poll:
Who agreeswith this advice?
And who disagrees?
(The photo says "Obsessions are never good for us.)

I tend to think a healthy fascination--okay, obsession--be it books, authors, quality customer service, a great online experience, absolutely spotless MARC records, ratings, the best recipe for carrot cake, the quickest route to the grocery store, the exact right paint shade for the living room, checking for new podcasts...can be an acceptable vice.
Any reflections, IAG readers?


laura said...

Hmm. . . obsessions are not always good for the people who have them, but they can turn out to be good for society as a whole. If the world's great scientists and artists and thinkers weren't obsessed with their work, we wouldn't have the benefits of their work--though of course if you are related to one of these geniuses, you might wish s/he were a little less obsessed and had a little more time to spend helping with housework.

Jessamyn said...

obsession seem to imply a level of "being into it" that verges on the fanatical. There is a reason that OCD is considered a disorder and not just a really great way to keep your hands and house clean. I think obsessions are rarely good for "us" as social animals [obsessed people tend to make bad friends unless you share an obsession in which case, great for you guys] but can be particularly good for individuals. The most creative and productive people I've known haven't been obsessive, they've been passionate. It's a subtle but ultimately valuable difference.

waltc said...

I think jcw just made the crucial distinction (and am glad I didn't get to this post until now...): Obsession [as in the psychological disorder] is probably not a great thing, but passion frequently is.

Even then, though, I'd be unwilling to declare that obsessions are never good for us.

Michael A. Golrick said...

And I choose Walt has having made a critical distinction between "obsession" and "passion."

On the other hand, I just read the note on about the Plymouth MA former librarian who died at 98, and lived a full and exciting life. (She was colorful, too.) In many ways she reminded me of the librarian who inspired me, Miss Osborne, who died a couple of years ago at the age of 90 something. Since they were both in the Bay State, I like to think that they knew each other.

Anonymous said...

Innovation is built on obsession. How much stuff would get accomplished without obsession? Think: great novels; world chess tourneys; the cure for polio; bed-sized afghans; the perfect bernaise sauce; moveable type; the Oxford English Dictionary. You see where I'm going. Obsession might not be good for an individual, but frequently benefit the rest of us. Or annoy the hell out of those of us who know and love obsessives.

Anonymous said...

Walt has pinpointed the fine distinction... yet I too am unwilling to say obsessions are NEVER good for us. When I'm learning a complex new task or writing something very important, I go into an area that's obsessive; it allows me to focus. Maybe a more balanced person wouldn't need that "overboard" phase, but it helps me.

Alice said...

Clearly, I am not the only one who thinks this de facto statement, proclaimed on a page-a-day inspiration calendar, is full of grey area!
"Passionate" seems to enjoy a positive connotation (even though sometimes it is preceded by phrases like "wacky, but passionate..."), while "obsessive" is now medically linked with "compulsive," and both terms (OC) veer off from a healthy psyche...

And very interesting turn, say what is unhealthy for a specific individual can actually be very fruitful for society.

Hmmm...organized societal obsessiveness...does that qualify as "culture?"

George said...

I've always thought that "passionate" is used for the obsessions we favored, and "obsessed" is a used for passions we opposed.