Art and Artist, by Otto Rank

I found a book by Otto Rank that I bought maybe 25 or 30 years ago and never read. I Googled the book to see what people had to say and found this quote...

“For the artist too is a totalist type that, unlike the average, cannot live in perpetual ‘partialization,’ but is forced to totalize every act of life. And on the artistic plane of illusion, in the act of creating – which is at once appearance and reality, a part and a whole – he finds it possible to conquer creatively this fundamental human dualism and to derive pleasure therefrom. For when he creates, the artist uses the whole of himself without being in danger of losing that self therein..."

“A deep study of neurosis has shown me that a characteristic quality of both the productive and the thwarted… is an Over-strong tendency towards totality of experience. The so-called adaptability of the average man consists in a capacity for an extensive partial experience such as is demanded by our everyday life, with its many and varied problems. The non-conforming type tends to concentrate its whole personality, its whole self, on each detail of experience, however trivial or insignificant; but as this is not only practically impossible but psychically painful (because its effect is to bring out fear), this type protects itself from a complete self-exhaustion by powerful inner restraints. Now, the neurotic stops at this point in the process, thus cutting himself of from both the world and experience, and, thus faced with the proposition ‘All or nothing,’ chooses the nothing. The artist, however, here also, in spite of many difficulties and struggles, finds a constructive, a middle way: he avoids the complete loss of himself in life, not by remaining in the negative attitude, but by living himself out entirely in creative work. This fact is so obvious that, when we intuitively admire some great work of art, we say the whole artist is in it and expresses himself in it”
(Pg. 373).

I watched the Gary Shandling documentary on HBO the other day and this really speaks to his experience. His search for ways to be pure Gary was creative and neurotic and the message of the show seemed to say he maybe broke free of the neurotic part of it toward the end.

But his life and this quote is a dangerous question for the rest of us. Are we working to be our true selves or are we merely living in a "perpetual ‘partialization"? And with that if we can't "totalize every act of life" can we step up? Or merely try and eliminate that urge?


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