Random thoughts

On love, maturity, emotions, living in the present, problems, grief and stoicism

Here are some more thoughts from Alain de Botton’s book On Love.

First of all, on falling in love:

Albert Camus suggested that we fall in love with people because, from the outside, they look so whole, physically whole and emotionally ‘together,’ when subjectively we feel dispersed and confused. We would not love if there were no lack within us, but we are offended by the discovery of a similar lack in the other. Expecting to find the answer, we find only the duplicate of our own problem.

On maturity and emotions:

We could define maturity as the ability to give everyone what they deserve when they deserve it, to separate the emotions that belong to, and should be restricted to, oneself from those that should at once be expressed to their initiators, rather than passed on to later and more innocent arrivals.

On (not) living in the present. He asks, ‘Had there not been many times when the pleasures of the present had been rudely passed over in the name of the future …?’ and talks about ‘anticipation in the morning, anxiety in the actuality, and pleasant memories in the evening’, only to conclude that ‘the inability to live in the present lies in the fear of leaving the sheltered position of anticipation or memory, and so of admitting that this is the only life that one is ever likely … to live’.

On problems: ‘One can think problems into existence‘.

On grief: ‘Bewildered and exhausted by grief, I suffocated on question marks: “Why me? Why this? Why now?“‘

On mature love:

… mature love is marked by an active awareness of the good and bad within each person, it is full of temperance, it resists idealization, it is free of jealousy, masochism, or obsession, it is a form of friendship with a sexual dimension, it is pleasant, peaceful, and reciprocated ….

On stoicism:

At the heart of stoicism lay the desire to disappoint oneself before someone else had the chance to do so. Stoicism was a crude defense against the dangers of the affections of others, dangers that would take more endurance than a life in the desert to be able to face. In calling for a monastic existence free of emotional turmoil, stoicism was simply trying to deny the legitimacy of certain potentially painful yet fundamental human needs. However brave, the stoic was in the end a coward at the point of perhaps the highest reality, at the moment of love.

There is much to ponder in these quotes.

Random thoughts

Correcting the false stories

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.