I Wish I Had An Obsessive Personality / 14 February 1997

You know, whatever. I think it would be an enormous relief to be completely focused on something, to the exclusion of all else (social interaction, hygiene, etc), even if it was to a dangerous degree (I’d prefer it, actually). Think of how much it would simplify your life, and how easy it would be to make decisions. Major life decisions. Everything would be secondary to your obsession, and any step you took in life would have to be dictated by this obsession. Everything you did would either be about indulging or pursuing this obsession. Anything unrelated could be forgotten and unregretted. Nice. Cuts a lot of the fat.

Let’s say I was obsessed with staplers (a harmless and, I’m sure, common example). I loved staplers, I caressed them at work and had a near-complete collection at home. I researched their history and use on a daily basis. I drew to-scale sketches of them. Well, I’d be pretty much set for life. I knew what got me off. And if I got a job offer that paid a million dollars but put me in a stapler-free environment, I wouldn’t take it and wouldn’t even think twice. If I fell in love with a woman (maybe with stapler-like legs or something) who suddenly announced her preference for paper clips, well, I’d know what to do and now.

And also I’d be The Expert on staplers. I could be an expert witness in trials (“Your Honor, it is categorically impossible that the accused used a Swingline 94-02 to bind the victim’s fingers to the wall. It’s ridiculous, and, frankly, insulting.”) and maybe do a lecture series.

As much as I intellectually appreciate the idea of a Renaissance Man, I think dilettantism has led to the slow erosion of society. We need Experts, and the only useful Expert is an Obsessed Expert, and at this point, I’ve spread myself too thin to be an Expert on anything.

Joshua Green Allen

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