By Mari Ruti
Psychoanalytic point of view on what Western philosophers from Socrates to Foucault have known as "the artwork of living."
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Additional resources for A World of Fragile Things: Psychoanalysis and the Art of Living (Psychoanalysis and Culture)
It can even turn into an ethical imperative—something that we deem worth pursuing because we hypothesize that by so doing we can “purify” or “improve” our character. The same way as Platonic ideals supposedly express uncorrupted Truth, there might appear to be something untainted about the potential for happiness that resides concealed within the depths of our being. This notion is problematic on several levels, but what is perhaps most damaging about it is that it can lead us to overlook, or at the very least to underestimate, the manner in which our experience of lack and alienation contributes to the intensity of our psychic lives; it keeps us from recognizing that our persistent sense of being less than fully realized—our perception of the various fissures and shortcomings of our being—is not necessarily an impediment to self-actualization, but rather the very foundation of our capacity to take an active interest in the intricacies of the world.
24 26 A WORLD OF FRAGILE THINGS The art of living opens up the field of subjective possibilities. As I have stressed all along, one of its most alluring aspects is the idea that our identities are not fixed once and for all, but remain open to constant refashioning. It is, moreover, reassuring to think that even though many dimensions of our existence are initially given to us randomly, without our input, we can aspire to build a life that is centered on what we most care about. As Nietzsche reveals, each and every component of our lives—no matter how defective, excruciating, or ludicrous—has the potential to become a part of an organic whole.
This means that the process of filling our lack must by necessity be continually renewed. It cannot be brought to an end for the simple reason that we can never forge an object or a representation that would once and for all seal this lack. However, far from being a hindrance to existential vitality, this intrinsic impossibility—the fact that every attempt to redeem lack unavoidably falls short of its mark—is what sustains us as creatures of becoming and what allows us, over and again, to take up the inexhaustible process of signifying beauty.