The Force of Character: And the Lasting Life Hardcover – Aug 17 1999
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This philosophy/psychology work on character and aging is not a self-help book but rather a self-perception book--philosophical, wise, and deep. "What does aging serve? What is its point?" asks James Hillman, and proceeds to examine those questions fully. The loss of short-term memory, for example, enables us to better recall the past and review our lives. "On the one hand, brain cells may be flaking off like autumn leaves in a deciduous forest; on the other hand, a clearing is being made, leaving more space for occasional birds to alight." Hillman also likens short-term memory loss to a warehouse packed full of the inventory of life, emptying the latest files "to preserve enough emotional space for evaluating what has been there for a long time." Other aging markers also have benefits for character, reflection, and imagination. We wake up at night not only because our old bodies have to urinate, for example, but also because our minds are open to the wonders and mysteries of night.
Hillman discusses the three major changes that character undergoes in later life. First is "lasting," which is the desire to live as long as possible. Next is "leaving," where we change from holding on to letting go, and our character becomes more exposed and confirmed. The final stage is "left": "what is left after you have left," and Hillman interweaves all the connotations of that word. --Joan Price
From Publishers Weekly
Our culture treats aging like a disease to be cured, but in this provocative volume, iconoclastic psychologist Hillman, former director of the Jung Institute, describes aging as the process through which character reveals itself. Extending a theory he introduced in his bestselling The Soul's Code, Hillman describes character as a force that shapes our genetic inheritance and all our traits, including seeming irrelevancies, into a unique whole. Applying ancient thought in a galvanizing way, Hillman draws on Plato and Aristotle to develop the idea that there is a form or a paradigm that makes each of us a recognizable individual through all the changes we go through in our lives. While modern psychology, he contends, strains out seemingly subjective qualities like modesty or bravery or timidity, favoring abstractions like "ego" and generalizing profiles, Hillman argues that such qualities are "the ultimate infrastructure" of a body and a life. He describes how the aging tend to shift from a focus on maintaining the health of the body to one on what is important for character. "In later years," he writes, "feelings of altruism and kindness to strangers play a larger role, as if psychological and cultural factors redirect, even override, genetic inheritance and its aim of propagation." Hillman maintains that the debilities of age allow us to better savor the irreducible complexities of character. He also describes a sweetening and softening of the old, including the adoption of concerns of charity over profit. Many of the views here may strike readers as romantic. Still, as always, Hillman breathes new life into a venerable concept, and in so doing helps us to rediscover the soulful possibilities of aging. Author tour; simultaneous audio. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author unwraps biological naturalism with the psychological bloom of a mind fermented with insightful, though not inundated, research on the literary and aesthetic character of human aging as a welcoming asset to life, in flagrant contrast to the ceremonial traditionalism of preparing for death, a non-issue in the continuous envelopment of life throughout the growing and falling of seasonal lasting.
Dreams are referred to for their imagistic plentitude in bringing the holistic human experience towards fruition in the entire round of consciousness.
In short, Hillman's psychology is life-affirming unto the limits of modern knowledge-bearing with regard to the biological strength of humankind to age well and vigorously, as an essential presence in social reflection, as a memory of characterful belonging in the psyche of an unconscious gathering of the old triumphant spirit of age in all its mythic fortitude and human vulnerability.
Read Scott London's brilliant interview with the late author: [...]
Having read the book, I still find the ideas compelling and important, but my hopes of being able to give it to my mother in law to gently urge her to appreciate where she is were dashed by the self indulgence and turbidity of the writing. I'm glad I read the book, I appreciate the new outlook on aging it's helped me move toward, I'm sure it will figure in many conversations with friends. But I wish it had been written with more grace.
Most recent customer reviews
I've enjoyed James Hillman in the past and when I ran across this book in our library I read it. The subject of character is such a - a - uh - hum - hard to say and Hillman does... Read morePublished on June 22 2001 by Diane Krogstie
As several of the reveiwers have noted, this book is very pleasant; it doesn't dwell upon death and suffering. Read morePublished on Jan. 11 2001 by Brenda M. Vanderford
In an epoch when appearing younger has become a sort of social hysteria this book of James Hillman sets old age in a completely different perspective, recovering and exalting the... Read morePublished on Nov. 16 2000
I studied the early writings of Mr. Hillman, as a student in Vermont. He was once a real genius, original and gutsy if more incomprehensible. Read morePublished on July 1 2000
At last! I don't have to fear old age anymore! Seriously, this book will help anyone come to terms with aging, and help all to understand the beauty, dignity, and honor of the... Read morePublished on May 11 2000 by Grant R. Schnarr
This was the first book I read by Hillman. Like all of Hillman's books, he offers many ways to think about life situations that you take for granted. I highly recommend it.Published on Feb. 1 2000 by Richard William Ray
I've read much of what Hillman has written and his thinking has influenced my own book, "Gideon McGee's Dream. Read morePublished on Nov. 20 1999
James Hillman writes with consummate skill and keen intellect. His subject is a moving target, not easily focused, but he proceeds undaunted. Read morePublished on Nov. 8 1999 by Hugh M Frazer