My Love Affair with Obscurity

Wittgenstein

Are you an introvert? If so, you might relate to my perennial on-again, off-again affair with obscurity.

I’m an introvert. Hard-wired for solitude. Hellbent on books. Infatuated with writing.

I’m bewitched by libraries, bookstores and universities. Enchanted with long trail hikes, mowing the lawn and extended runs.

Yes, I nurse a subtle attraction to an anchoritic lifestyle.

Eighteen hundred years ago I might have been a desert hermit.

One thousand years ago I might’ve been a Scholastic monk.

In fact, just twelve years ago I was an ascetic living in my mother’s basement. [Then I met my wife.]

Do you see what’s wrong? There are no people. And a Christian separated from people–whether believer or unbeliever–is mildly impotent.

Funny thing is, I have a people first job. I have a very forward looking blog. In other words, I have a commitment to interact with…people.

I can’t ignore them. Not in good conscience, at least.

Yet, my soul constantly longs for obscurity. For cover to duck behind when I see someone coming. And to do this for long periods of time.

Wittgenstein’s Restless Wanderings

This reminds me of a story about philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. In a fit of arrogance he left the academic world that loved him so much to teach school children in a rural Austrian village.

However, this stint as a teacher closed when a 11-year-old boy collapsed after Wittgenstein struck him.  [Wittgenstein was fond of corporeal punishment.]

Although cleared of misconduct, Wittgenstein abandoned his school teacher post and worked as a gardener’s assistant at a monastery near Vienna.

In time Wittgenstein contemplated becoming a monk. He went as far as to find out the qualifications. Yet, during the interview someone advised him that monastery life wasn’t for him.

My Trigger-Happy Bent Towards Self

The reason why I mention this portion of Wittgenstein’s life is that I’m enamoured with it. Although it was a period of great despair for Wittgenstein…I look upon it with envy.

Why? Wittgenstein is embedded in obscurity! And that has an odd charm to me…

But here’s the problem: This is nothing more than a clear case of narcissism. The excessive love of self.

Even in an isolated, monastic environment where I could pursue God without barrier or boundary, it’s truly about my needs. And can only lead to an ever-growing, unrestrained love of self and lack of empathy for others.

Martin Luther, in his Lectures on Romanssaid:

Our nature, by the corruption of the first sin, [being] so deeply curved in on itself that it not only bends the best gifts of God towards itself and enjoys them (as is plain in the works-righteous and hypocrites), or rather even uses God himself in order to attain these gifts, but it also fails to realize that it so wickedly, curvedly, and viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake.

This is what Augustine called incurvatus in se. A life lived inward for self rather than outward for God and others. The antithesis of the Gospel.

It’s a hang up from original sin. And a constant struggle as Paul pointed out in Romans 7. We constantly create idols and construct ways by which we can glorify ourselves. This includes my idol of obscurity.

What Do You Think?

Are you an introvert? If so, do you find being a Christian difficult in the sense that we are to bring a message to the world…which means we are ACTUALLY supposed to befriend and speak to people?

What do you do to combat your shyness? Your tendency to draw inward? I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

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