In Akiko Busch’s book, “How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency,” a step back is taken from the interconnected world and the ubiquitous feeling of the need to see and be seen in our online culture. Busch emphasizes in eleven chapters (which function more as eleven stand-alone essays), the importance of privacy and even an occasional retreat from the world. Busch approaches the subject through the lens of nature, politics, the literary arts, and spirituality to make the case that the human psyche requires quiet spaces and places. A hyper-critical, continually plugged-in life wearies the soul and will eventually cause psychological and emotional break downs.
Busch asserts, “It’s 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” (jacket). It is a call to stop and reevaluate not just our own lives, but the life of this world with its penchant for celebrity culture and its insistence that we maintain the fear of missing out (FOMO). Modern assumptions are called into question and the book is at its best by doing so. An individual can stumble day to day without questioning the culture’s priorities or society’s greed. All of this can be normalized and the search for happiness can come to be seen as nearly impossible in a world that has lost its way.
However, there is a sense to this book of resigned acknowledgement that this world is on a course that will not pause and self-correct. The global culture does not possess that depth of self-awareness. The train left the station a long time ago and its heading has never changed. 1 John 2:17 says, “The world and its desires pass away….” The world’s insatiable appetite for sin is never satisfied. The speed keeps increasing with each new technological application, we are all tightly connected to everyone else in the world. The individual, therefore, must has the self-awareness and discipline to bring about a change in their own lives. The individual must remove themselves from the world’s prying eyes and recognize the simple joys and pleasures in life. Being alone with nature, spending time with one good friend, looking at art all are worthwhile ways to accomplish this.
Busch wants to teach that there is a level of living that is higher and more fulfilling than what our popular culture has to offer. In fact, to assess it, one must leave the world to find it. There is a spiritual dimension to this call. It is reminiscent of the Bible’s teaching about the sinfulness of this world and how we must leave it behind and follow God’s rules for living.
God’s rhythms are always right. Sometimes a call to action is needed but just as important is a time for inaction and taking a step back. There is both stillness and silence in God’s program—and there’s a difference. Silence is the lack of sound coming from outside of us; a lack of noise. Psalm 23 says, “He leads me beside quiet waters.” There is also stillness, which has to do with a quietness on the inside of us, the interior. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”