How to Disappear is a memoir written by author Akiko Busch. Taking the reader down an exciting journey, the author utilizes images in nature to challenge the concept of identity. In a time of social media and self-marketing, modern culture leads us to believe that to be seen is to be known, and in being known, there is great power. However, Busch challenges this baseline of identity and argues that our true identity is best determined as we find our true selves in the crevices of invisibility. In the opening pages, she writes, “In the woods no more than an hour, I am struck anew by invisibility, and its improvisational choreography, as a necessary condition of life. I am reminded of the grace of reticence, the power of discretion, and the possibility of being utterly private and autonomous yet deeply aware of and receptive to the world.” Invisibility as a necessary condition of life. When we fail to lean into invisibility, and our identity is determined by what we present to the world, “something is lost, some core of identity diluted, some sense of authority or interiority sacrificed. It is time to question the false equivalency between not being seen and hiding. And time to reevaluate the merits of the inconspicuous life, to search out some antidote to continuous exposure, and to reconsider the value of going unseen, undetected, or overlooked in this new world.” Just as Eve Poole compels readers to craft their leadership, similarly, Busch calls readers to curate their identity quietly and discretely.
One compelling case Busch makes is the value added by what children glean in the formation of invisible friends. Referencing the work of psychologist Alison Carper, Busch affirms Carper’s observations that these imaginary friends serve as a “witness to our internal experience,” thus, growing us in our understanding of self. The implications of knowing ourselves have a direct correlation to our engagement with others, as well. Quoting Busch, writer Stefan Beck says, “invisible friends have come to be understood as teachers of ’empathy, invention, compassion, and comfort.” In other words, healthy individuals with a strong sense of self-awareness and identity equate to greater compassion, thus, healthier relationships.
In light of what has been referred to as the Gyges effect, perhaps most easily equated to the one ring from the Lord of the Rings, the author challenges the reader to consider what they would do if they were to have the power of invisibility. Should such invisibility be granted, the author writes, “It suggests that opportunistic invisibility emboldens amoral behavior, and indeed, the entire digital world is full of examples in which dishonesty and indiscretion are enabled by invisibility.” Reading these words, I exhaled, “Amen!” Yet, this was not the aim of the author, for Busch challenges the notion that humans are only amoral and states, “The power of the ring is not limited to transgression, nor is it simply a means of liberation. Rather, it is a source of unfettered creativity, unrestrained thinking, and ingenious action, and suggests that being in our out of sight can justify all manner of romantic madness.” While I do appreciate Busch’s hope in the goodness of humanity and what she calls unfettered creativity, I cannot help but be jolted back to the reality of the human heart as declared in Genesis 6:5, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of mankind was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.”
Undoubtedly, I leave this book behind having gleaned a few gems as it relates to my NPO and doctoral work on leadership. First, the concept of identity is crucial for every person made with imago Dei and the need to continue to emphasize our identity in Christ has been affirmed. Second, there is great wisdom in fighting the cultural pull to make more of myself. Sadly, in the corporate world of Christianity, this can be as much a distraction as in the business world. Third, as a part of the necessary soul care as a leader, it would do my soul well to find rhythms and lean into invisibility as an essential way of life. I can only imagine this is much easier said than done. And lastly, a remarkable picture as I ponder Busch’s statement that “Anonymity is ‘the new celebrity.’” In the summer of 2019, I traveled to Palestine with my family and visited The Walled Off Hotel, a masterpiece created by the artist known as Banksy. Though no one knows his true identity, he purposely creates in obscurity, his work and bold statements speak loudly and demonstrate true influential power, i.e., leadership.
 Akiko Busch, How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency (New York: Penguin Press, 2019), 4.
 Ibid., 9.
 Ibid., 31.
 Beck, “‘How to Disappear’ Book Review | National Review,” accessed November 16, 2021, https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2019/04/08/how-to-disappear-seeking-invisibility-in-an-age-of-exhibitionism/.
 Busch, How to Disappear, 42.
 Ibid., 47–48.
 New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).
 Busch, How to Disappear, 137.