In this part of the interview Wilson talks about intentionality, Husserl, Sartre, Tom Sawyer…and how we must concentrate on what we look at in order to see it… or how to make our lives more interesting and interesting by changing our mental attitude to how we see it. He also speaks about how he wanted to create a philosophy on a new foundation, and about Kierkegaard and his flaws and need for philosophical spectacles. Not to mention Abraham Maslow and studying healthy people as a psychologist. Above all, Wilson introduces here the idea of the “peak experience.” I’ll let you listen to it to learn about that!
By the way, in the short introduction of this podcast I also speak about how I felt personally at the time while doing the interview, and why I sometimes sound a little cold and detached during Wilson’s fascinating talk. Part 3 of the interview will follow soon.
Podcast: Meetings With Remarkable People. Episode 1 : Colin Wilson
Philosopher of Optimism
This is the first of a new series of podcasts that I have decided to do. Having worked for 30 years as a journalist, and always used great sound recording devices for my interviews, I recently realized that I had a lot of great interviews with remarkable people that I had made for the writing of my articles, but that can serve as podcasts as well.
Most of these interviews are with people who in some way provided answers to some of the life questions that I had or have, and I approached them to do stories that were close to my heart. By sharing them, I hope that the interviews will be as valuable as life guides to listeners as they are to me. The goal, however, is also to continue interviewing remarkable people in the future specifically for this series.
This first interview is the one that I did in July 2005 with Colin Wilson, the angry young man of British letters, who became famous overnight in 1956 at the age of 24 after publishing his first book, called, “The Outsider.” The interview was the basis of what became an article in both the IHT and the NYT, and then became the basis of the book that I published in 2006 called: Colin Wilson: Philosopher of Optimism. One of the people that Wilson wrote about in the book was Georges Gurdjieff, who wrote a book called “Meetings With Remarkable Men.” So comes my title for the podcast. This is the first instalment of the Wilson interview, which I am editing into several episodes – so if you enjoy it, keep posted for the next ones!
PARIS – It has soon been four years since Colin Wilson, one of Britain’s angry young men of literature in the 1950s, died as a not-so-angry old man – at age 82 on 5 December 2013. The anniversary has provided an impetus for a couple of unfinished projects to finally come to life: A new edition of my interview book with Wilson, called, Colin Wilson: Philosopher of Optimism, and the release of some excerpts from another interview I did with Wilson in the same year of the book publication, in 2006. For the book, it was time to update the story and write about the rest of Wilson’s life after the interview, as well as to write a new preface in which I talk about the strange way this book about optimism came at the time of my life when I needed that sense more than ever before.
For the film, it made sense for this project that has been hibernating for 11 years, to finally see some daylight. So it is that Excalibur Productions of Yorkshire, in the UK, and Michael Butterworth Books of Manchester, all agreed to release some excerpts from that never-before-seen video interview between Wilson and me. For me personally, it was very strange to see myself 11 years later, in another lifetime, and having survived that dark period. For fans of Wilson’s writing and philosophy of life, it is a great moment to see this extraordinary British writer as if coming back to life.
Wilson, for those of you who do not know him, shot to world fame at the age of 25 in 1956 with the publication of his first book, called “The Outsider.” It was a kind of popular introduction to existentialism in the UK, a study of such outsiders as Nijinsky, T.E. Lawrence, Hermann Hesse, William Blake, and many others. It came out at the same time and was reviewed at the same time as the playwright John Osborne’s “Look Back in Anger,” and the British press decided to label these writers “Angry Young Men.”
The label would be passed on to many other writers of the time, such as Alan Sillitoe, Arnold Wesker, Kingsley Amis and others. Wilson would be no doubt the most prolific of them all, and he was also the one that was ultimately the most difficult to pin down and label as a writer beyond that initial effort. He would write books covering such a diversity of subjects – crime, the occult, philosophy, psychology, biography, fiction and many other things in over a hundred books through his life – that his reception by the critics and the British literary world in general, went through a permanent roller coaster of a ride between respect and reviling him throughout his life.
“Wilson’s philosophy of optimism runs like a clear thread through all of his varied works,” is how my book’s publisher, Michael Butterworth Books, puts it. “It is at the very battlefront of the fight against the pessimistic world-view. At its core lie the twin concepts of ‘intentionality’ and the ‘peak experience’, which show us that if we open our eyes and direct perception properly we can use our minds in the most positive sense to bring change to ourselves and to the world about us.”
Not long after the book was published, I was invited by the Excalibur people to interview Wilson on camera. This interview too was a long, wide-ranging one that lasted some two hours in total and touched on just about all aspects of his life and writings. Somehow, for many and varied reasons, the film never got released…until now with these excerpts.
So I hope you enjoy this “blast from the past” because it is just as pertinent, or even more so, to our chaotic and difficult present….