Commenting on Wisdom, which in Proverbs 8 is said to be playing in the world and before God at all times, Thomas Merton, in New Seeds of Contemplation, writes:
We do not have to go very far to catch echoes of that game, and of that dancing. When we are alone on a starlit night; when by chance we see the migrating birds in autumn descending on a grove of junipers to rest and eat; when we see children in a moment when they are really children; when we know love in our own hearts.
Having looked forward to Alain de Botton’s book On Love, I did not find this as inspiring as I had hoped at first. However, now, half-way through, I have to say that the book is growing on me. Thus far, the chapter entitled ‘“I”-Confirmation’ has easily been the highlight. Consider, for instance, the following reflections on labeling:
the labeling of others is usually a silent process. Most people do not openly force us into roles, they merely suggest that we adopt them through their reactions to us, and hence surreptitiously prevent us from moving beyond whatever mold they have assigned us.
De Botton speaks about ‘shaping according to preconceptions’, adding that:
Children are always described from a third-person perspective … before they gain the ability to influence their own definitions. Overcoming childhood could be understood as an attempt to correct the false stories. But the struggle against distortion continues beyond childhood. Most people get us wrong, either out of neglect or prejudice. Even being loved implies a gross bias – a pleasant distortion, but a distortion nevertheless. … No eye can wholly contain our ‘I.’ We will always be chopped off in some area or other, fatally or not.
Looking at it from the other perspective, he notes:
Though I felt myself attentive to the complexities of Chloe’s nature, I must have been guilty of great abbreviations, of passing lightly over areas I simply did not have the empathy or maturity to understand.