Mary Oliver on the Third Self

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“Mary Oliver sets out to excavate the building blocks of the self in order to understand its parallel capacities for focused creative flow and merciless interruption. She identifies three primary selves that she inhabits, and that inhabit her, as they do all of us: the childhood self, which we spend our lives trying to weave into the continuity of our personal identity; the social self, “fettered to a thousand notions of obligation”; and a third self, a sort of otherworldly awareness.The first two selves, she argues, inhabit the ordinary world and are present in all people; the third is of a different order and comes most easily alive in artists — it is where the wellspring of creative energy resides.” And it is to the third self that the artist must remain true: “My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive.”