Laura Hillenbrand

The other day, my son-in-law Ned was drinking his morning coffee and reading The Washington Post soon to discover that he and my daughter had lived in the house where Seabiscuit was written, which is next door to its author’s house. Let me explain. Laura Hillenbrand rented a small house in DC where she wrote the novel. Thereafter, she and her husband bought the house next door. Soon thereafter, my daughter and her husband moved into the rental.

Before I continue, I invite you to read Laura Hillenbrand’s story in The New Yorker:
I talked about her story in my Great Books seminars this week.  In HON101, I related her story to Aristotle’s concept that character development is both social and active. Unlike Plato, who believed that we improve our character through contemplation and dialogue, Aristotle believed that we improve our character through action. In HON201, I related her story to Voltaire’s ending of Candide, which invites (or instructs, depending upon your translation) us to tend (or cultivate) our gardens. In essence, Voltaire accepts human conflict and prescribes work over philosophical argumentation as a tolerable way to live.

I would like to know how Ms. Hillenbrand has found her strength. Honestly, my interest lies not so much with how she wrote two full-length novels with such little energy, but how she eschewed enervating social acculturation. How did she face and surmount the social stigmas imposed on her disease? Might those social stigmas have fostered some independence or risibility that promoted her self-actualization?

I’m still wondering if there is, ironically, some female self-actualization benefit to being considered non-normative.


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