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Should we feel inadeuate for failing to be healthy balanced and well adjusted? Is such an existential euilibrium realistic or even desirable? Condemning our cultural obsession with cheerfulness and positive thinking Mari Ruti calls for a resurrection of character that honors our eccentric freuencies arguing that sometimes the most tormented and anxiety ridden life can also be the most rewardingRuti critiues our current search for personal meaning and the pragmatic attempt to normalize human beings' unruly and idiosyncratic natures Exposing the tragic banality of a happy life commonly lived she instead emphasizes the advantages of a lopsided life rich in passion and fortitude Ruti shows what counts is not our ability to evade existential uncertainty but to meet adversity in such a way that we do not become irrevocably broken We are in danger of losing the capacity to cope with complexity ambiguity melancholia disorientation and disappointment leaving us feeling less real less connected and unable to metabolize a full range of emotions Heeding the call of our character may mean acknowledging the marginalized chaotic aspects of our being for they carry a great deal of creative energy Ruti shows it is precisely this energy that makes us inimitable and irreplaceable


10 thoughts on “The Call of Character

  1. says:

    “The moment we desire we bring risk into our lives” — Mari RutiToday many are in thrall to the sedating effect of affluence many others are pinned down by the paralyzing impact of economic insecurity Above all we want to belong we want to be seen as fitting in As a result while at the surface our society celebrates diversity and idiosyncracy the reality is that the vast majority of us choose to keep their heads down We trade in our vitality for the precarious reassurance of career family and a wide variety of commoditized passions and uasi choices In this book Mari Ruti pleads for a slightly courageous life in which we heed the call of our idiosyncratic desires and accept the fact that following this path entails inevitable friction pain and existential bewilderment Ruti captures the book essential message as follows “The key to the good life is not the ability to avoid pain but rather the capacity to metabolize it so that we become capable of a rewarding relationship to ourselves This capability in turn allows us to develop a rewarding relationship to others including those we relate to intimately”Ruti rigorously builds her argument relying on key insights from thinkers such as Nietzsche Lacan Freud and Badiou First she shows that our subjectivity is not monolithic and cast in stone Instead it is fluid and malleable and at any point in life we are at liberty to reinvent ourselves “The self is an open system that is always in the process of becoming” She proceeds with the assertion that a feeling of existential deprivation rather than euanimity is what makes us uniuely human Acknowledging that perennial sense of 'being unfinished’ is not an impediment to an inspired life but rather its precondition There are however powerful forces that undermine our resilience Much of our defensive desire denying routines are rooted in our subconscious We tend to repeat blueprints of behavior that are not good for us and much of that goes back to our formative traumas in our process of socialization Understanding how these 'repetition compulsions’ Freud work is a first step to counter their influence But we may need professional help to learn to outwit these patterns and to appreciate that reinterpreting a painful experience from our past is constructive influence on our character “The best we can do with the pain of the past is to turn it into a resource for living in the present”Ruti holds that following our desire does not amount to a show of narcissism but leads to an ethically commendable way of life may strike us a incongruous Because we work from the assumption that following ’the call of our character’ will inevitably lead to conflict with those dear to us parents partners friends colleagues They project their expectations and anxieties on us and we are loath to disappoint them And yet risking these disappointments may be the prudent and charitable course in the long run First because ignoring our desire may lead to a violent breakup at a later stage in life Second because it is from the fullness of a inspired life that we are most capable of generously sharing with our dearest and of contributing to the community at large And vice versa the open and intimate our relationships the potential they offer for allowing us to make contact with and integrate disclaimed aspects of ourselves That being said there are moments in life when we have to muster the courage to step out of relationships that do not reinforce our capacity to reinvent ourselves The ethics of relationality is not predicated on honouring stability but on wanting to risk an encounter with what is most uncanny and opaue about the other Finally when we follow the call of our character we also resist the circuits of surveillance and controls designed to keep us in step as docile 'human resources’ Claiming our space is always subversive but it is also a matter of personal dignity Ruti brings the tension between our social persona and our character into sharper relief by invoking the notion of 'the event' as discussed by Alain Badiou The event is a discontinuity an upsurge of energy and meaning that overtakes us This can be the sudden emergence of a calling the spark that fires a creative process the irresistible attraction to another human being We have to risk to answer that call But how do we know that we are not following the lure of mere illusion? And how to heed that call without gambling away our social capital? There is no recipe It is a matter of trial and error perhaps supported by mentors and in delicate concert with those dear to us I find this a very valuable book because it helps me to articulate what a ‘systemic way of being in the world’ might be It’s not a self help manual and it offers no soothing messages Mindfulness euanimity and stability only get us so far Balancing our character with our social persona will always be a delicate process fraught with risk and anxiety but offering a tenuous path to personal dignity purposeful presence intense relationality and a heightened awareness of the delicacy and beauty of life Ruti’s ‘Call of Character' shows kinship with Judi Marshall's ‘Living Life as Inuiry’ but it compares unfavorably with the latter in terms of reading experience Mari Ruti shows commendable skill in building a rigorous argument and in translating complex ideas in relatively understandable prose But her style is somewhat grating It’s not badly written by any means but there is a certain monotony and inflexibility of rhythm that tires after a while Also I’m convinced that the book would gain in cogency by making it shorter and tighter No matter it's going to be a essential piece in my personal survival kit


  2. says:

    This book is a great critiue not only on our western culture but the medical model and how it has overwhelmed good psychology with a need to fix Loving my symptoms is completely antithetical to the modern belief of health but it is the only thing that can bring us to a new place Exploring and embracing our madness is what redeems it and makes it beautiful The title of this book made it sound like a self help book but the help in this book comes from deep in the soul not cosmetic change


  3. says:

    Self help through the lens of Lacanian psychoanalysis So useful self help for a change


  4. says:

    This book would have made an incredible impact on 20 year old me I think Still a fantastic read Ruti name checks some v cool thinkers and probably is a great not intimidating introduction to these v intimidating people Would reccomend


  5. says:

    I need to ruminate on this one My three star rating isn't an indication that I don't think that this book I worthwhile uite the contrary But I am not sure that it is necessary Read Csikszentmihalyi; read Nietzsche; read Freud But then again if you can't uite determine why you are compelled to read this book in the first place assuming you are you could certainly do worse Following that desire half of what Ruti means by living a life worth living


  6. says:

    This book is really well written and accessible without becoming meaningless It's structured pretty good and I must say that this is one of the most helpful books I've read in a while Although there are some thoughts in the book that could be emphasized a bit the excellent endnotes make it a good starting point for research