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The Force of Character: And the Lasting Life Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (August 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375501207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375501203
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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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Customer Reviews

After trying to read it for so long I felt that this was a book I wanted in my library.
MuseGlance
Some of us have been old for a long time, I think, waiting for our body to catch up to our soul, and waiting for a book like this to make some sense of it for us.
Richard R. Powell
In this book James Hillman speaks about the jungian concept of individuation or the development of the whole personality, by the calling of the soul.
Monica

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Brenda M. Vanderford on January 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
As several of the reveiwers have noted, this book is very pleasant; it doesn't dwell upon death and suffering. That is why I believe that it will mean the most for those who are not really, really old. This book is intended for those of us who are facing old age in the future. It gives alternatives to the stereotypyed images of what we should expect. It gives reasons for what is going on. If these new images are already there in our vision,(thanks to Mr. Hillman) then what we experience "down the line" might be viewed by us later on in a different light. We just might be able to age more gracefully, or perhaps more happily.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I found the Hillman book to be both provocative and deeply optimistic. Here are ways to view the aging process as something other than a final step toward the grave. Here are wonderful paradigm shifts that nudge the reader to see eternity right here, on this side of the grave. Each chapter shows that all one has to do is open one's eyes to the potential of all the stages of life and keep an eye open to see what each has to offer. This is made most evident in the later and last stages of life. Hillman urges one to see heaven seeping in to life as we age and each chapter gently encouraged to enjoy those gifts now and not set it to something that will materialize only after death. Hillman's style of writing is close tho that of Joseph Campbell in its breath of imagination and arch of line. There are parts that can only be described as poetry in prose. I have recommended this book to many of my friends who are, as I, situated between aging parents and raising children here at home.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Dave on September 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Those who would label this just another book on aging would likely label the Iliad just another book about some guy lost at sea. "The Force Of Character" is the continuation of literary journey that germinated in "We've Had A Hundred Years Of Pyschotherapy and the World's Getting Worse" and continued to ripen in "The Soul's Code." Hillman in not casual reading, nor is his work inpenetrable. This book waxes nearly poetic at times, something quite unexpected from the bard who oft times mercilessly broadsides our culture's staid notions about salvation through psychoptherapy. While Hillman most always cajoles the soul of the reader to open and partake of his wisdom, this book takes on a quality of reminiscence, of the author and the man - and the character of the man - coming to terms with his own advancing years. Those who seek a book on how to age successfully by accumulation of superficial necessity would do well to read Depak Chopra or another popular icon of spiritual ascent. Hillman will not take us gently into that good night.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Diane Pellegrini on June 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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 it! I didn't give it 5 stars only because I would get lost sometimes and trusted that he would bring it all together - which he did, mostly.
I got alot out of what he said - but not all. He's a philosopher for sure. But there were some real gems... such as his take on grandparents, cosmetic surgery, and of course what character is in a round about way - the essense of us. What we are - what becomes magnified as we age and what we leave behind. I am really glad that I stuck with it - I got alot out of it =>
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Hugh M Frazer on November 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
James Hillman writes with consummate skill and keen intellect. His subject is a moving target, not easily focused, but he proceeds undaunted. He has the couarge to look beyond the obvious and go where others fear to go. If he is hard for some to accept the reason may be found on p.136- "To see character we must look for it with an idea of character". Some may just simply have a paucity of ideas.
The marvelous "High School" chapter reminded me of my six years of Jr/Sr high school. Daily I entered the school building through a door over which was etched in stone "Knowledge is Power". Yes, good advice for young students. But now we know (p. 168) that Character is power- refined, controlled, salubrious, everlasting. Que la force (de caract`ere) soit avec toi, Docteur!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Joe Coyle (jtc151@psu.edu) on September 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
True to form, James Hillman once again calls for an artful reconceptualization of the mundane in his most recent work targeting the much neglected beauty of the aging process. Hillman elegantly charts this terrain with a trio of concepts rich in simplicity (Lasting, Leaving, and Left) and effectively applies his coat of soul to several hard-to-reach crevices (e.g., irritability as an expression of "raw urge to live"). As with his protigee Thomas Moore, Hillman ultimately champions the imagination as the doorway to self-actualization and spirituality. The result is fresh and inspiring, offering above all a glimpse into the dynamics of an individual hell-bent on seeing the glass as half full.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I purchased Force of Character because a series of things happened that indicated to me that this was something I should do. I heard two radio interviews with Hillman within a short time and found his ideas resonated and were presented very accessibly; and my mother in law, who is having a lot of trouble adjusting to many aspects of aging, was visiting. Great, I thought. This is stuff I need to explore.
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.
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