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Many of the historical and literary nonfiction heroes and artists of Colin Wilson's study entitled The Outsider desired to fit into their respective societal contexts. They sought happiness and connection, even if ultimately they were, because of their great gifts, denied some of the rewards of ordinary, lived experience. But despite this, they were not ostracized from the true, healthy essence of life. Rather, Wilson argues, these individuals were far more connected to the ebb and flow of what truly makes human beings human, namely a positive and engaged relationship with the natural, physical, and moral world.

Thus, this 1956 British study makes it clear that for true individuals of far-reaching visions, while such a constant state of fitting in is neither possible nor desirable to truly actualize a visionary' s state of ultimate happiness, this does not mean that such super humans are less human because of their artistic gifts. Rather, they are more fully human in their moments of historical, artistic, philosophical, and literary engagement. It is this fully engaged life that makes them seem like outsiders, because pessimism is such a great temptation for the human mind when living in a dark world--or so it seems to eyes clouded, Wilson says, citing Nietzsche, with the wormlike gaze through the primeval ooze that we are apt to sink back into, falling prey to the stifling temptations of cynicism and pessimism.

Boldly, the author draws connections between the existences of various creative and innovative persons, from the artist Van Gough to Nijinsky, from Lawrence of Arabia and the philosopher Nietzsche, and ties together the more recent themes of the existentialists with these creative individuals. He writes against existentialism, which stresses the horrific and alienated disengagement of the modern condition. Wilson instead stresses the need for healthy human engagement and connection, rather than a valorization of estrangement, as embodied in Camus' classic The Stranger. Rather than confirming the purposelessness of existence, creative individuals throughout history are seen as actualizing a true state of happiness and being, even while many of the individuals studied by Wilson suffered from depression, even madness.

According to Wilson, the creative seeker or outsider is a person that sees very deeply, rather than feels boredom or ennui as an existentialist might. Almost against his or her will he may at times feel he or she is not part of the ordinary ebb and flow of human life. But this person, the outsider, always desires to be, and uses art to engage fully with reality. The outsider cannot help but be himself or herself, a seeker in search of a quest, and thus they set a personal journey of discovery that they render meaningful, through art or philosophical texts and speculation, for all who engage with their words and life.

Rather than centering upon pain, Wilson's work focuses on what he calls an evolutionary optimism, a kind of positive mystical intuition about the human condition. Humans evolve to see the world in light, rather than darkness, and to be pessimistic is to fall back into the past, rather than to seek the future. He cites the words of mystics like Swedenborg who called this state of being third level of the mind, an ultimate degree of concentration that only the most evolved consciousness can achieve, even with the utmost effort.

Wilson's focus on positive psychology is strongest and seems most apt when he discusses such future-focused individuals as H.G. Wells, and Tolstoy, as the former author's focus on the future and the positive value of science and the latter's eccentric religious visions seem keeping



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