Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Lure of Obsession

I've always been envious of people who can immerse themselves in a subject, often to the exclusion of everything else - family, friends, socializations.

I recently listened to a novel that exemplifies that idea: The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason.

The story is about two Princeton seniors who are enthralled by and entangled in a Renaissance book, Hypnerotomachia Poliphii, written in various languages with many hidden riddles, riddles that could unlock one of the 1500s mysteries.

I was entranced by the Hypnereotomachia (the Fight for Love in a Dream) but engrossed in the obsession of both students, one the son of a Renaissance scholar who'd made the book his life's work and one student who'd been working on the riddles for most of his academic life. The way they both came to their work was not as important as their dedication, their obsession.

It made me think, what would be MY obsession?
Finding the "Once and Future King" shield buried with King Arthur?
Unraveling the mystery of Poe's death?
Discovering if Mary Shelley was really writing a biography of a mad scientist who actually lived ?
Identifying an ancient mystery: Nessie, Bigfoot, ghosts, werewolves, aliens...

All very esoteric - but all of them are my interests.
Maybe obsession does not go with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder - someone who goes from subject to subject - someone who has scores of books on esoterica - someone who's just a tad off center.
Obsession requires unwavering focus...oh, look, a shiny rock...
I doubt if I could be that focused for days, weeks, months, years.
But I do admire those who are.
I did thoroughly enjoy the book. And I was able to solve the riddles.
So there, Fr Colonna! I could have unlocked the Hypnerotomachia...if I wasn't distracted by another mystery.


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