Through analysis of both narrative and filmic effects, Singer probes Bergman's mythmaking and his reliance upon the magic inherent in his cinematic techniques. Singer traces throughout the evolution of Bergman's ideas about life and death, and about the possibility of happiness and interpersonal love. In the overtly self-referential films that he wrote or directed (The Best Intentions, Fanny and Alexander, Sunday's Children) as well as the less obviously autobiographical ones (including Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal, and the triad that begins with Through a Glass Darkly) Bergman investigates problems in his existence and frequently reverts to childhood memories. In such movies as Smiles of a Summer Night, Scenes from a Marriage, and Saraband, Bergman draws upon his mature experience and depicts the troubled relationships between men who are often weak and women who are made to suffer by the damaged men with whom they live. In Persona, Cries and Whispers, and other works, his experiments with the camera are uniquely masterful. Inspecting the panorama of Bergman's art, Singer shows how the endless search for human contact motivates the content of his films and reflects Bergman's profound perspective on the world.
"Meaning in life," writes philosopher Irving Singer, "and the meaning in our own lives, results from creative efforts on our part. It is not a prior reality awaiting our discovery. Though we talk about a 'search' for meaning, what we are seeking is primarily a mode of creativity that will make our lives meaningful." In The Creation of Value, the first volume of his Meaning in Life trilogy, Singer studies the nature of imagination, idealization, and love in the context of humanity's attempt to define itself through the pursuit of meanings and values that it creates. Singer confronts life's most troubling problems: the meaning of death, the presence of anxiety in daily existence, the conditions needed for us to have a life worth living, and the possibility of a love of life in others as well as in ourselves.
Rich in insight into literature, the history of ideas, and the complexities of our being, The Pursuit of Love is a thought-provoking inquiry into fundamental aspects of all human relationships.
Creativity has long fascinated Singer, and in Modes of Creativity he carries forward investigations begun in earlier works. Marshaling a wealth of examples and anecdotes ranging from antiquity to the present, about persons as diverse as Albert Einstein and Sherlock Holmes, Singer describes the interactions of the creative and the imaginative, the inventive, the novel, and the original. He maintains that our preoccupation with creativity devolves from biological, psychological, and social bases of our material being; that creativity is not limited to any single aspect of human existence but rather inheres not only in art and the aesthetic but also in science, technology, moral practice, as well as ordinary daily experience.
This human art form, Singer writes, enables us to unite our selfish interests with our compassionate and loving inclinations. We thereby effect a vital harmonization within which the naturalistic values of ethics, aesthetics, and religion can find their legitimate place. The good life, as envisioned by Singer, includes the love of persons, things, and ideals so intricately intermeshed that the meaning in one contributes to the meaningfulness of the other two. The result is a kind of happiness that we all desire.