An erudite literary commentary by Akiko Busch in The Atlantic, entitled the “Invisibility of Older Women” connects an older woman’s decision to decrease public presence with an increase in empathy and insight into the broader world. Her commentary takes my simple little observation in an earlier post about invisibility to an entirely new perspective.
In her article (based on her book “How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency”), Busch is saying that the sense of invisibility begins with the older woman’s choice to limit when and how she is seen. Weaving examples ranging from Hitchcock movie characters to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Darroway, Busch posits that this volitional change in appearances is the basis from which empathy and a broader sense of the world evolve. Ironically, as the identities of the women becomes lost, their understanding of the broader universe is enhanced. Ultimately, their identities become transparent; they are lost: “And it’s probably not the worst thing for any of us to imagine identity as arrangement of letters written for a few moments on the clouded window of a train that is speeding out of view.”
Sounds like death to me. A willing acceptance of death demands a belief that the world is larger than the individuals within it; logically that acceptance allows us to die. This takes us to Busch’s concluding statement:
“Invisibility directs us toward a more humanitarian view of the larger world. This diminished status can, in fact, sustain and inform—rather than limit—our lives. Going unrecognized can, paradoxically, help us recognize our place in the larger scheme of things”