Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Anonymity, the New Celebrity

Written by: on November 17, 2021

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.”[1] 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.”[2] 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.[3] 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.”[4] 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.[5] 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.”[6] 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.”[7] 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.”[8]

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.’”[9] 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.

[1] Akiko Busch, How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency (New York: Penguin Press, 2019), 4.

[2] Ibid., 9.

[3] Ibid., 31.

[4] 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/.

42 The Gyges effect comes from Plato’s myth of Gyges and a ring that offers the power of invisibility.

[6] Busch, How to Disappear, 42.

[7] Ibid., 47–48.

[8] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[9] Busch, How to Disappear, 137.

About the Author


Eric Basye

Disciple, husband, and father, committed to seeking shalom.

8 responses to “Anonymity, the New Celebrity”

  1. Eric, this is very well crafted summary, conversation and reflection. I connect with your final thoughts around Banksy and invisible leadership. How do you think invisible leadership differs from the more “front stage” version of leadership?

    • mm Eric Basye says:

      I noticed that section of your post, a no-leader group. Wow, that would be fascinating to see that lived out, partly in that I am convinced that the presence of leadership is so important. To your question, I do see a difference on front stage vs backstage. Backstage leadership is more difficult, at least in my opinion, in that it means I can confidence in my place before Him and not needing the validation of others, such as those I lead. I personally think that the mindset of a humble “backstage” leader can be present in the frontstage as well. But rather than it being about “me” as the leader, it is about the One I ultimately serve, and the ones He has called me to serve.

  2. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Eric, what a great job interacting and engaging the book. I also appreciate your applications from the book – very practical. Your reminder about the human heart made me think that between the exposure to the digital world and the life of retreat from the world. It seems we also need that in between place of trusted accountability of one or a few. I guess “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” rings in my ears these days and my biggest takeaway from that series is the danger of a lack of accountability, especially for those who have “celebrity” status.

  3. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Eric: Glad this book was able to speak to your NPO. I think I can use this book in our syntopical essay, but not my NPO. My favorite idea you mentioned was the idea of identity in leadership, and how each of us has the image of God within. We have to bring that out in ourselves and it is a daily effort. But then there is technology everywhere in our lives now and the effect that has is considerable. Busch does a good job of bringing insights to bear.

  4. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Eric: Great reflection and connection with this weeks reading. I’m glad you’ve found it helpful for your NPO. Is there one of the prototypes you’ve identified this semester that Busch’s work might play more intentionally with than the others?

  5. Elmarie Parker says:

    Eric, thank you for your thoughtful post. I really appreciated the connection you made between Busch and Poole…thank you for that.

    I also loved this sentence (so evocative): “…our true identity is best determined as we find our true selves in the crevices of invisibility.” It made me think of how both Moses and Elijah experienced more of God’s being (and their own) as they were hidden in mountain crevices/caves and God passed by. What spiritual crevice are you most drawn to enter in this season of your leadership in order to lean more deeply into God and your true self?

    I’m asking myself the same question. I appreciate what your descriptive language drew me to. I’m realizing how profoundly I felt pulled to spend time at the Oregon coast following my father’s death…this was a crevice time for me. Now that I’m back in Lebanon, it’s harder to find those physical spaces. I’m realizing I need to re-enter a long-time practice of contemplative prayer…another crevice space for me.

  6. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Eric thank you for your thoughts and reflections on the book. Your statement “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,” resonated with my general sense of the book. Busch seems to be more optimistic in what humans inclinations are.

    What other ways would you compare Poole and Busch regarding leadersmithing?

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