Obsession 1: For Those About To Obsess, We Salute You

Obsession… by Captain Cal.


No, this has nothing to do with fragrance, underwear models, or designer anything.

It does have something to do with this mangled quote – “A time to obsess, and a time to refrain from obsession.”

*Insert Solomon palm smack here…*

I think I want to become obsessed. And in true Calbertesque fashion, I want to become obsessed with multiple things. There are valid reasons I’m a Jack of a FEW Trades. I’m also a Cal of a few issues, so the concept of obsession presents a few problems for me…

Obsession can be dangerous.

Obsession can be obsessive.

I can be redundant.

Hee hee ha ha ho ho *snort* Woo…

Where did this bunny trail start? With an episode of Ace Of Cakes, oddly enough. One of the decorators, Anna I believe (although it’s been SO long since I watched them that her name could be Brunhilda for all I know…) had an assignment in art school to become obsessed with something.

She chose Scrabble.


But get this – she dove in so far, learned that she loved it so much, that she became a championship-level Scrabble player. Her assignment to develop an obsession became something that she ended up making a part of her life.

Sometimes, obsession is alright. (Insert mangled Doobie Brothers tune here – “Obsession is just alright with meeee…”) For the right reasons, in the right way, with balance and care, being obsessed isn’t dangerous or wrong.

After all, we need to love God with everything we are and have, aren’t we? Obsession of the absolute right kind, eh wot?

But the world is filled with obsession targets, most of which are not worth our attention.

You and I are surrounded by things that would love to be obsessed over. Media shouts for our allegiance, status cries for our devotion, materialism screams for more, more, more…

It seems (or appears to me anyway) that the stuff that yells the loudest is the stuff least worthy of our obsession.

But perhaps we’ve gone too far the other direction – since so many things can be obsessed over, since getting involved with something that eclipses other things is sometimes called “idolatry,” and since we limited sheep only have so much attention to go around, well, the key is not to obsess over anything. Keep it all out there, where it can tickle our fancy, please our senses, peak our interest, but not become so intimate that we could be called out about it.

And perhaps we’re kidding ourselves. Perhaps we obsess over stuff while pretending to keep it at arm’s length.

I don’t know – I have enough trouble getting my shoes on the right feet and tied in the morning; I have no idea how short of a leash something can be kept on before it ends up as an appendage. 

I like my metaphors mixed… Stirred, not shaken.

I believe that obsessing over the right things may be alright. That choosing the things we love, the things that matter, the ways we invest ourselves, and doing it mindfully, with careful awareness, is a great way to be “all-in” to what really counts rather than being force-fed obsessions (or at least distractions) by whatever shouts the loudest.

There are people and things I have given my pledge to, that are worthy of spending my time and attention on, and indeed MUST receive my first and greatest devotion. To do any less would be very, very wrong.


Beyond the basics, the non-negotiables, well, the waters grow a bit cloudy because I’m not talking about the people I love, or the people I like, or those who just deserve my respect. Nor am I talking about responsibilities and duties – the things that must be done, or that already have a seat at the front of the bus. All good stuff, but not where this is going…

What areas of my life, my interest, my attention are worthy of obsession? The pursuits that could and should receive the kind of investment from me that allows me to excel at them, to have more than a passing fling with them, or to dive into them so fully that they become a part of my life? What are those things that I want to be totally into – the things that I connect so deeply with that investment of my time and attention is a worthy pursuit, especially when seen in balance with everything else that makes up life?

What are those things that mean so much that hours upon hours spent with them are reasonable and right? 

And no, my Pez collection probably isn’t one of them. But it does make me smile, so for now it stays…

Someone said that in order to really excel at something, you have to put in 10,000 hours of practice. (My head says it might have been Jon Acuff, but my head has been known to sing the theme song of “Star Trek: Voyager” in a chicken voice, so not what you’d call a reliable source…)

But then, someone else came along and disputed that number, talking about intensity of attention taking the place of long hours of practice.

I think I buy into both. I’m wishy washy that way.

So what are the pursuits that are significant enough to me, or are so in tune with the gifts God has given me, that 10,000 hours is totally worth it? Or the equivalent amount in attention or focus?

Is there a decent app for that kind of conversion? Never mind – FOCUS… Focus… focus.

Turning the corner, then… in a Ford Focus.

Hee hee ha ha hoo hoo *snort* Woo.

In our multimedia world, instant anything anytime anywhere, do we even have enough attention span left for obsession? Can we stay focused enough to put in our 10,000 hours to “master” something? Do we ever master things anymore, or do we just get them to a “good enough” level, and leave it at that? Is it only the truly obsessed that ever really “get” something and make it their own?

I remember, and I’m not proud of this, that as a young punk church musician, the phrase “good enough for Gospel” might be heard in preparation for a service. No need to polish something to a nice shine – it’s good enough to get through tonight’s service. I think I repented of that particular little nugget somewhere around my sophomore year of college – probably when I finally understood the place of the musicians in the Temple way back in the Old Testament – they were from the priestly line, and their vocation and calling was to lead the people in worship.

“Good enough for Gospel” isn’t. The Lord deserves our best. Period. That’s one of those non-negotiable areas that have front row seats in the bus, complete with embroidered seat covers with their names on ’em.

But what about the others? In my world, they include writing and storytelling, music, magic, crochet, wire jewelry making, Kumihimo, inkle weaving, sewing, Tai Chi, riding my trike, finally figuring out how to get that dang protective liner off the top of the bottle when opening a new thingie of Vitamin C tablets… (The chewable, fruit-flavored kind, but I digress.)

The list goes on and on.

Who gets the 10,000 hours, and who gets a pink slip?

Granted, some of these have a lot of time banked already. I’ve been a musician all my life, for example. And a magician since Herself and I were married 30 years ago. But 10,000 hours of practice? Polishing and perfecting? Not so much.

So who gets my attention? Who gets obsession? No idea – but I do know that if I don’t answer that question and fill the void, it’ll get filled for me.

As for me, in my little weird world, I’d rather choose where my attention goes, instead of having it chosen for me, so that at the end of the day I know where my time went, and am glad because of it.

I’ve got a long list, with 10,000 hours due on each line.

Got to go now – I’ve got things to obsess over.

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