Should we feel inadequate when we fail to be healthy, balanced, and well-adjusted? Is it realistic or even desirable to strive for such an existential equilibrium? Condemning our current cultural obsession with cheerfulness and positive thinking, Mari Ruti calls for a resurrection of character that honors our more eccentric frequencies and argues that sometimes a tormented and anxiety-ridden life can also be rewarding.
Ruti critiques the search for personal meaning and pragmatic attempts 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. She also shows what matters is not our ability to evade existential uncertainty but our courage 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, Ruti warns, leaving us feeling less real and less connected and unable to process a full range of emotions. Heeding the call of our character means acknowledging the marginalized, chaotic aspects of our being, and it is precisely these creative qualities that make us inimitable and irreplaceable.
Columbia University Press