The act of keeping a diary has a long history, and a tangled relationship with subjective “truth.” Although diaries have long been associated with women, Margo Culley argues in the essay “I Look at Me: Self as Subject in the Diaries of American Women” that diary-writing was not a feminized form until the second half of the nineteenth century — with the era’s shifting notions of self, the private sphere, and inner life — and again in the feminist 60s and 70s.
This idea of narratives is key: in a sense, the Enneagram is just an organized and abstracted system of characters that already exist, in specific forms, in literature. And just like literature, it can give us ways to understand and mobilize our own stories and transformations; indeed, we can think of literature as a place where philosophies of personality are put into play.
For my last semester in college, in an effort to be practical, I signed up for a graduate humanities course called “How to Live.” On the first day, the professor discussed the syllabus at length, then asked us to introduce ourselves. The air had drained from the room, and as I waited for my turn I could already tell there was a problem.
The artists I know are perfectionists, heartlessly so, because that is required. They will paint right over a failed canvas; they will rip out every stitch and start anew. The artist comes to her material with an mix of control and surrender, and her success seems to rely on her ability to grasp a material’s specific demands, while reconciling those with her own vision. There is something there, in the material, that works against you—which requires rigor, but might bring relief.
A few years ago, a woman in Spain attempted to restore a nineteenth-century church fresco, but in doing so ruined it completely. The result is less Savior than surreal simian, the delicate portrait painted over with a crude, monstrous “face.” Since the election it has been hard to shake the feeling that reality has been made worse, unrecognizable, in precisely this way.