And an Upcoming Novel
"Six Characters in Search of an Author" - By Luigi Pirandello - Born 6/28/1867 - And the Search for One's True Self
An argument has been made by Psychologist Roberto Assagiolo that each of us has a set of sub-personalities all vying for center stage in the story of our lives. At any given moment, each of us is playing a part depending on circumstances: parent, child, lover, friend, employee, student, etc. And yet, even as we play these roles, an age-old question persists: Who am I really? Who is writing the story of my life? Where is the author?
Enter Luigi Pirandello, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1934. His most famous work, Six Characters in Search of an Author, was not written to illustrate Assagiolo's theories on sub-personalities. But you know what Freud said: With every one of my theories, a poet was there first.
If you've never seen the play, a fine black-and-white film version starring John Hurt is included here via YouTube. It's preceded by an excellent 9-minute clip that sets the drama up for you and provides a bit of background on Pirandello's life and art. After you've seen the play, you might try a Google search for Roberto Assagiolo, his ideas on sub-personalities and his "psychosynthesis" approach to finding the author within. There are others far more qualified to discuss all this than I, but I couldn't let Pirandello's birthday go by without offering some small homage on this website. (The 9-minute set-up begins in frame 2 and is labeled Luigi Pirandello Part 3. It's part of a larger work, but only the relevant section about the play is included here. The play begins in Frame 3 and is labeled SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR, Part 1 of 7. The other six parts follow.)
Most people live life dying. It shows in their attitude, their response to circumstances and ultimately in their physical health and appearance. But there is an alternative, an open secret, which is also the key to a happy and fulfilling life: Live life living.
The foregoing paraphrase is my key take-away from Robert Henri's wonderful book, The Art Spirit, which was loaned to me years ago by an 80-year-old sculptor, who was also my neighbor in the island-country north of Seattle and one of the most youthful people I have ever known.
I mention it now because Robert Henri was born on this day, 6/24/1865. He was a leading figure in the Ashcan School of American Realism, a founding member of "The Eight," and a gifted an inspired teacher.
If you read reviews of The Art Spirit on Goodreads or Amazon, you will find a common theme - it's not just a book for painters, though it contains technical guidance they will find useful. It's a book for anyone who wants to live a richer and happier life. In the end, it's about connection to spirit. Connection to source. Make that connection, and you find the secret to life, the key that makes it possible to "life life living" instead of the daily dying most people settle for.
For more about Robert Henri, here's a link to Craig Shillam's blog, which provides a nice summary of Henri's background and 16 Highlights from The Art Spirit. Here are two of them: 1) “Cherish your own emotions and never under value them.” 2) A man must become interesting to himself and must become actually expressive before he can be happy.”
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