In psychological circles, they call them idiot savants - those people who are functionally useless at a lot of things, but tend toward genius in a particular category. They learned to do one thing very well. I once met a guy whose “party trick” was to sit down at a piano and bang out an amazing symphony. The joke was, it was the ONLY song he knew. The guy didn’t really play piano. He never took lessons, and he didn’t know any other tunes. He just learned that one song perfectly as a way to meet girls.
On that note, I have started to do something I have not had time for, in a long while; to be a bit obsessive. I rediscovered my guitar during coronary rehab. It had sat gathering dust for a lot of years working and raising kids and rushing from hither to yon. I picked it up as a stress buster here and there, and hacked away at songs or portions of songs that I kind of learned in a kind of way. In rehab I dusted off my “good stuff” repertoire, songs I had curated with my own arrangement way back in the day when I was a teenager and had an obsessive six hours straight to do nothing but sit in my room and play one song over and over and drive my parents nuts.
Lately, I have taken to driving my wife and kids nuts because the fact is, being obsessive and putting in the time (the ten thousand hours?) is the ONLY way you ever end up with something polished and finished - as opposed to the often amateurish way I have rushed pillar to post for a very long time. I lately picked out “Carmelita” by Warren Zevon. The song has good memories for me, and it has a great Spanish guitar accompaniment that I had chipped away at here and there but never really put together. Now I have put it together and my wife and kids are by this point blocking their ears and banning me from the room. They do not understand that genius takes time. They may well put, “he loved Carmelita” on my gravestone.
That is OK because I have noted that all truly good things require focus. They take time and time is our greatest gift. You have to learn to sit down and bask in it, if time has been granted to you. Learn to do one thing very well. Don’t rush it. Rushing never accomplished much but a lot of half finished frustration, and looking back, a lot of my life is incomplete, projects I started out and have to get back to, because I couldn’t spare the time then. I think that’s the joy of retirement, that you don’t have to rush anymore. I’m not exactly retired, but I’d like to draw from that well of wisdom and give some worthy things an obsessive shot.
It’s good Friday, and I am reminded that even in matters of belief, only the obsessive have survived. Those who were iffy during Christ’s passion, turned tail or fell asleep. They didn’t have the guts when the chips were down. But the obsessive people were there. The ones Christ sent away but they objected “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
We live in an age of dilettantes. People who dabble and learn one party trick as a means to an end but don’t much care beyond that. The fast moving pace of the internet, and social media - things like snap chat and instagram, mean we swipe from one moment of instant gratification to another with little pay and little results. We are just abusing time.
This chapter of my life, and this Easter, I am going to re-examine the value of being a bit obsessive. Like Peter, I want to say to Christ, “Wash not only my feet, but my head and hands as well”. I want to be the kind of person they call a fool for Christ, because not much else could really explain it. I want to fall into that well of forgetfulness, where you obsess on one thing only to the point of sublime, setting aside all others, like they say in the marriage vows. Time for a bit of obsession.
And yes, I will set aside Carmelita for Easter, priorities being priorities. For obsessive Christians, the passion narrative is by now two thousand years old and counting. Never mind Twitter and Instagram, Christ still has followers after two millennium. A lot of them, world over. That’s impressive. It also requires a bit of holy obsession, something I think is also a bit of a gift from God, for those foolish enough to desire it.